No imminent construction for Thirty Meter Telescope planned after key permit is ended

The project plans to apply for a new permit, but in the meantime, no construction may take place.
Published: Jun. 6, 2022 at 5:29 PM HST|Updated: Jun. 6, 2022 at 5:47 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Thirty Meter Telescope project on Mauna Kea is facing another construction delay.

On Friday, the state Health Department got a notice of cessation from TMT for its NPDES permit, which authorizes discharges of stormwater. That means TMT will not be allowed to do further construction unless a new permit is issued.

The protests blocking the $1.4 billion telescope happened in July 2019.

TMT told the state Health Department it plans to apply for a new permit.

“There’s no construction that can occur legally at this point in time with the TMT project until they have all their permits in place,” said E. Kalani Flores, one of six petitioners in the initial contested case hearing.

He believes TMT’s storm water permit was “faulty” and “invalid” to begin with.

“The reason for TIO (Thirty Meter Telescope International Observatory) pulling the permit, putting a notice for cessation is that further scrutiny and legal challenges wouldn’t occur on this particular permit,” said Flores.

Robert Kirshner, executive director of TMT International Observatory, said the organization “regularly reviews its numerous permits to ensure they accurately reflect who we are and what we intend to do.”

“The original NPDES permit was granted almost eight years ago in June 2014,” he added.

TMT says it has no imminent plans to restart construction.

“This will allow us to ensure that we have the best plans in place to protect Mauna Kea and its natural resources from construction-related runoff,” said Kirshner.

Supporters of the next generation telescope say it would enable scientists to see unprecedented views of the cosmos, but Flores says the best protection for Mauna Kea is without the 18-story project.

The state Department of Heath says it’s committed to a transparent public process and that a public meeting will be scheduled for any new permit application.

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