MAUNA KEA, HAWAII (HawaiiNewsNow) - Advocates of the Thirty Meter Telescope applauding the state land board's decision Thursday to move forward with construction atop Mauna Kea. Meanwhile, those against the project vow to continue their fight.
"I would characterize it as a fair evidentiary hearing," said Hokule`a navigator and TMT supporter Kalepa Baybayan. "I'm glad that we've cleared this hurdle now."
"It was obviously a biased system, it was a flawed system, and at no point in time did I feel that we were ever on equal footing with TMT, the university, and PUEO in this process," said TMT opponent Kahookahi Kanuha. "I felt like the process always leaned toward them, always gave them the benefit of the doubt, and we were fighting an uphill battle from the beginning."
"This is not a loss, it's just another step. We're up against a very powerful system … and the battle is strong and will be intense but we will endure," added Lanakila Mangauil.
Controversy surrounding the telescope began several years ago. In 2015, hundreds gathered on Mauna Kea to block TMT construction crews from making their way to the summit, and construction was eventually halted. The Supreme Court forced the permit process to go back to the start.
On Thursday, the state land board approved a permit to allow construction to move forward.
"We're very pleased with the board's decision. It's been a very long road for the project, and we're very grateful for the board's decision, as well as all of our supporters over the years," said TMT spokesman Scott Ishikawa.
"My reaction is positive. I was happy to hear that. But at the same time … I really appreciate the folks on the other side that were against the Thirty Meter Telescope, because I know that if it had not been for them, there wouldn't be as much awareness," said Richard Ha, PUEO board member.
Opponents of the telescope asked the land board not to allow construction until the Supreme Court hears the case, but the board left that decision up to TMT.
"I think that's premature to answer right now," said Ishikawa. "I think we want to just go back and look at our next steps. TMT has been trying to follow the process laid out for the last 10 years and we're just gonna take this one step at a time."
"We have to get through those legal hurdles, but hopefully we can do that in a timely fashion, much as the BLNR did this is a timely fasxhion, and get the telescope construction started," said astronomer Roy Gal of the University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy.
Petitioner Kealoha Pisciotta said her group is one of 19 petitioners filing an appeal with the Supreme Court within the next 30 days.
"The board in of it as itself may make the decision, but the court is the final say, up or down, if it's compliant with the law or not," said Pisciotta.
Opponents also promise to return to the mountain to block any attempt to resume construction. In a statement, the Hawaii Unity and Liberation Institute said, in part, "As daunting of a task it might be to stop construction of the TMT, we have once again been left with no choice but to resist and take matters back into our own hands."
The statement continued, "Any attempts by TMT, the illegitimate State of Hawaii or the University to ascent Maunakea will be met with peaceful, non-violent resistence."
The University of Hawaii released a statement on Thursday thanking the land board. In part it said, "...we stand firmly committed to collaboratively build a global model of harmonious and inspirational stewardship."
"I would love to see all the benefits of the telescope and the discoveries to be credit to Hawaii and the benefits of the keiki come to Hawaii," said Gal.