Can the Mauna Kea telescope be stopped?

Published: Apr. 9, 2015 at 9:44 PM HST|Updated: Apr. 9, 2015 at 9:56 PM HST
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Attorney David Kimo Frankel of the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation believes the Thirty-Meter Telescope planned for Mauna Kea can be stopped because it isn't consistent with criteria in the state's administrative rules.

"If it is a sacred site, if it's an important cultural resource, and the project would degrade that cultural resource, then it's inconsistent with the law," he said.

But UH law professor and land use attorney David Callies said the University of Hawaii and the telescope's developer met all demands and are on solid legal footing.

"It's the state's land. It's the university's land. It's for a scientific purpose. It's for a purpose that fits the mission of the university. And it's for one of the purposes that conservation land has been used in the past," he said.

Native Hawaiians against the telescope said the structure desecrates sacred land. UH astrophysicist Paul Coleman is Hawaiian. He believes Mauna Kea is sacred but that doesn't conflict with science.

"The one thing that makes you Hawaiian is one of your ancestors came here in a canoe led by an astronomer," he said.

Frankel is fighting construction of a telescope atop Haleakala. He said the eighteen-story Mauna Kea project will spoil its surroundings.

"It's hard to argue that building a huge structure in the conservation district is compatible with preserving beauty," he said.

Callies said present use of Mauna Kea dismisses the argument that conservation land is for conservation only.

"Given you've got all those telescopes up there already, I think that there's a good argument to make that that area is substantially developed," he said.

Unless the courts halt construction, the $1.4 billion telescope will be operational in 2024.

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