TMT construction gets green light

Gov. David Ige announced that the state Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) issued a notice to proceed (NTP) to the University of Hawaii at Hilo for the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) project on Maunakea on Hawaii Island. The permit was issued after DLNR confirmed the completion of the pre-construction conditions and mitigation measures required of the project in the Conservation District Use Permit (CDUP).

The appropriate agencies will work with the TMT representatives to determine the start date.

The next generation telescope will be constructed on UH-managed lands located in the conservation district regulated by the Board of Land and Natural Resources (BLNR). The university granted TMT a sublease and the BLNR issued a CDUP to construct and operate the telescope. The CDUP was upheld by the Hawaiʻi State Supreme Court in an October 2018 ruling.

So that construction of the telescope can begin safely, four unauthorized structures were removed from Mauna Kea earlier this morning by multiple state agencies. The structures were on Department of Hawaiian Home Land property on Maunakea Access Road near the Daniel K. Inouye Highway intersection, on Department of Land and Natural Resources property near the mid-level facilities on Maunakea Access Road at the 9,000-foot elevation and the on the TMT site on the summit of the mountain.

The Hawaiʻi Supreme Court ruled that the two ahu on the TMT site did not constitute a traditional or customary right or practice, and they were removed with guidance from Native Hawaiian cultural advisors.

Statement by Hawaii Gov. David Ige:

We will proceed in a way that respects the people, place and culture that make Hawaii unique. I will continue to work with the University of Hawaii and all our partners to make meaningful changes that further contribute to the co-existence of culture and science on Mauna Kea.

Statement from UH President David Lassner:

This Notice to Proceed is an important milestone in what has been a decade-long open and consultative process through which every requirement in statute, policy and procedure has now been met.

We know there are members of the community, including within the University of Hawaiʻi, who oppose the project. We are truly sorry for the pain some of them feel, and we fully respect their rights under the First Amendment to protest in a peaceful and lawful manner. But the project is also supported by many, and we firmly believe in the benefits of bringing the most advanced telescope in the world to the most magnificent and awe-inspiring mountain in the world.

Beyond the substantial lease-rent, community benefits and commitment to a workforce pipeline for the local community, the Thirty Meter Telescope represents a pinnacle of innovation and human imagination. It will enable humankind to explore from Hawaiʻi not only the stars and galaxies around us, but to stretch the bounds of discovery by helping us see further into our universe than ever before, back toward the beginning of time and our very origins.

With this permit we also accept increased commitments to stewardship. Among our commitments are that TMT will be the last new site developed for astronomy on Maunakea. And while one new telescope will be constructed, five current telescopes will be decommissioned and their sites restored.

We are inspired by Mayor Kim’s vision for Maunakea as a beacon of hope and discovery for the world that celebrates the Hawaiiansʻ historic explorations of the ocean and their groundbreaking discoveries in the skies above.

And as resolved by the Board of Regents, we stand ready to work not only with Hawaii County but with the state, OHA and others in the community committed to the collaborative stewardship of Maunakea’s cultural, natural, educational and scientific resources, and are willing to come together to synergistically integrate traditional wisdom and culture with modern science to build a global model of harmonious and inspirational stewardship befitting of Maunakea.

University of Hawaii Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ):

Does TMT have permission to construct on Mauna Kea?

Yes. The Thirty Meter Telescope project (TMT), under the Thirty Meter Telescope International Observatory LLC (TIO), will be constructed on lands managed by the University of Hawaiʻi (UH) that are located in the conservation district regulated by Board of Land and Natural Resources (BLNR). TIO was granted a sublease from UH and issued a conditional conservation district use permit (CDUP) from BLNR to construct and operate the TMT.

Does this mean construction can begin?

The NTP is an acknowledgment that all DLNR requirements have been met and construction can begin. The actual construction start date has not yet been determined. Relevant authorities are beginning planning with Thirty Meter Telescope International Observatory LLC (TIO) representatives and is working to determine the start date.

Are any other permits required?

There are other standard, construction-related site permits required by Hawaiʻi County including, for example, grading and stockpiling permits. There are also permits required by the state such as the State Department of Health (DOH) National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit. DOH has issued a five-year extension on the current NPDES permit while the application to renew the permit is under consideration.

When will construction start?

The actual construction start date has not yet been determined. Relevant agencies are beginning to plan with Thirty Meter Telescope International Observatory LLC (TIO) representatives to determine the start date. Prior public notice will be given to minimize impacts to commuters.

Will the construction of TMT impact access to Mauna Kea for cultural practitioners, residents, tourists, tour groups, and observatories?

Authorities will make every effort to maintain normal access other than when the road needs to be restricted for movement of heavy equipment or for the usual road closures due to severe weather. However, authorities will take necessary measures to ensure safety and security.

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