Despite approvals, TMT, Mauna Kea management plans still draw fire

State Supreme Court rules in favor of Thirty Meter Telescope’s construction
State Supreme Court rules in favor of Thirty Meter Telescope’s construction(Hawaii News Now/file image)
Published: Mar. 9, 2019 at 11:52 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The University of Hawaii has drawn criticism over the years over its management of the summit of Mauna Kea, especially during the controversy over the Thirty Meter Telescope.

And that criticism isn’t letting up, judging by the reaction at a public forum on the future of Mauna Kea management plans.

“Mauna Kea has been mismanaged for over 50 years,” said former Hawaii supreme court associate justice Robert Klein. He was among those blaming management plans for allowing 13 telescopes on a mountain that many consider to be sacred.

The T.M.T., as it’s also known, would be the latest and largest telescope at the summit. It’s still a flash point, even after gaining approval from the state.

“If you truly want us to be a symbol to the world for aloha for peace, then I ask you, why do you keep asking us to bear the burden?" asked Camille Kalama, an attorney with the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation. Her comment drew strong applause.

Scientists say the clear atmosphere at the summit of Mauna Kea allows them to expand knowledge and discovery by seeing farther into the universe.

Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim says Hawaiians can help lead that discovery.

“This is not just about science," said Kim. “It is about combining culture and science. It is about respecting care and a quest for knowledge that will make us a better people and better stewards of this world.”

After years of turmoil and legal challenges, the T.M.T. has the permit to proceed. Major parts of scheduled to be shipped from Canada this summer, according to the TMT website.

It will be eight years until the telescope is ready for science, if things go according to plan.

Before construction can even begin, it’s a sure bet that Friday night’s public meeting won’t be the last on the future of the mountain.

“We should talk about decommissioning, if that’s a way of solving some of the issues,” said Klein, drawing another round of loud applause.

“There are two decommissionings in process and three more that have been committed to by 2033, so we have heard that message that are moving to try to strike some balance there,” said Greg Chun, a special advisor to U.H. on Mauna Kea.

But it’s not enough of a balance for many at the meeting.

“There is no way forward unless they remove the injury,” said Healani Sonoda-Pale of Ka Lahui Hawaii, after the forum. “The way to ho’oponopono is to remove the injury is to remove the injury, and the injury is T.M.T.”

The telescope still as to meet several conditions from the state before construction can even begin. Even though that could still be a few years away, there are already opponents who are keeping vigil on the mountain.

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