By CATHY BUSSEWITZ
HONOLULU (AP) - Hawaii's Board of Land and Natural Resources has deferred a key decision for a $1.3 billion telescope project, saying the state needs more time to explore legal issues.
Board members voted Friday evening to defer a decision on the sublease for the Thirty Meter Telescope.
The sublease is the last major bureaucratic hurdle for scientists hoping to start operations in 2021. The project also faces paperwork and the threat of court action by opponents.
Organizers plan to build the telescope on the summit of the volcano Mauna Kea on Hawaii's Big Island.
The project was initiated by the University of California, California Institute of Technology and the Association of Canadian Universities for Research in Astronomy. Universities and institutions in China, India and Japan later signed on as partners.