Lawmakers quiz UH officials about plan to demolish telescopes atop Mauna Kea

Lawmakers quiz UH officials about plan to demolish telescopes atop Mauna Kea

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Lawmakers questioned state and University of Hawaii officials Thursday about plans to dismantle five existing telescopes on Mauna Kea.

As a condition to building the Thirty Meter Telescope, the University of Hawaii and state Land Board officials said the older telescopes need to be decommissioned by the year 2033.

“Who’s paying for that? Who’s paying for the decommissioning of the telescopes that’s going to cost millions and million of dollars,” asked state Sen. Kaialii Kahele, whose district represents Hilo.

Added Sen. Kurt Favella, whos represents Ewa Beach: “They’re going to take hit and run and we’re going to be stuck with the thing," he said.

“How can we have good faith and they are going to decommission and not cost the taxpayers money," he said.

TMT officials did not attend Thursday’s hearing.

They said they’ve set up a fund that will collect about $1 million a year to pay for telescope demolition.

“The TMT is obligated ... to remove the facilities and restore site ... at their cost and not at the university’s costs,” added Stephanie Nagata, director of the UH’s Office of Mauna Kea Management.

State officials also told state lawmakers during today’s briefing that construction won’t re-start until TMT meets many of the specific building conditions set by the state Land Board, which can take months.

“It is in the best interest of the state of Hawaii and the Legislature that major projects like the Thirty Meter Telescope do not suffer like other projects in the past like the Superferry," said Kahele.

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