Telescope construction convoy to close Haleakala roads; protest expected
The narrow winding road leading up to Haleakala National Park will be closed to traffic for several hours starting late tonight during a planned delivery of materials to the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope site that is expected to attract protesters opposed to the project.
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The narrow winding road leading up to Haleakala National Park was scheduled to be closed to traffic for several hours late Tuesday during a planned delivery of materials to the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope site — where protesters opposed to the project were expected.
Park officials said Crater Road (Route 378) and the park’s summit road would be closed from 10 p.m. until 2 p.m. today.
A slow-moving convoy — expected to travel at between 2 and 5 mph — including semi-truck trailers and support vehicles was scheduled to transport “extremely wide loads” to the project site near the Maui volcano’s 10,000-foot summit.
State Department of Land and Natural Resources officials also said that they would close or restrict public use of state lands next to the national park “for the purposes of safe transit and personal safety” starting at 10 p.m. “Anyone found on closed unencumbered state land is subject to citation and/or arrest,” said a DLNR news release Tuesday morning.
DLNR officials said that in addition to the summit road closure, other roads lower on the mountain would be closed and that parking on state and federal roads during the closures is forbidden.
“We are standing against the telescopes, standing against the desecration of a sacred site,” Sesame Shim, a Pukalani resident and protester, said Tuesday night by telephone.
Shim estimated about 60 protesters gathered at the intersection of Haleakala and Old Haleakala highways holding signs that said, “Aloha Aina” and “Malama Haleakala.”
Haleakala “is a very sacred site for our culture, for our people,” she said. “Time and time again, they … disregard what we say and don’t recognize our people as a culture.”
“For them to trample on our manao (thoughts, beliefs, opinions), we’re not just going to quietly back down and just be silent,” Shim said.
The current project underway is the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope, which is 14 stories high, she said, calling it “absurd” to build something that high in a conservation area.
Shim said some protesters might block the convoy heading to the project site overnight, and were prepared to be arrested. “Legal observers” were on hand to take information down to help protesters and advised them to have bail money on hand, she added.
The $340 million solar telescope has been under construction since 2012 at the University of Hawaii’s Science City region atop Haleakala. A UH spokesman said work is ongoing.
The project is expected to be completed in late 2019, and scientists say it will be the world’s most powerful solar telescope, giving researchers unprecedented views of the sun’s surface.
But the project has drawn criticism and protests from some Native Hawaiians, who have been fighting against it for a decade, saying the Haleakala summit is sacred.
Motivated by large protests of the Thirty Meter Telescope project planned for Mauna Kea on Hawaii island, demonstrators opposed to the Maui telescope successfully blocked a wide-load convoy delivery in June 2015. Law enforcement arrested more than 20 protesters on various charges, including failure to disperse, obstructing and disorderly conduct when protesters again tried to block two other deliveries in the months that followed.
A representative of Kako‘o Haleakala, which helped organize previous demonstrations, could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
The Star-Advertiser’s Leila Fujimori contributed to this report.