The Hawaii Board of Land and Natural Resources has approved the application for a permit to build the Thirty Meter Telescope atop Mauna Kea, a move that was vehemently opposed by some environmentalists and Native Hawaiians who consider the mountain sacred.
In a 5-to-2 vote today, the board adopted the recommendation of retired judge Riki May Amano to approve the application for a Conservation District Use Permit to build the $1.4 billion telescope, according to the state Department of Land and Natural Resources.
“This was one of the most difficult decisions this board has ever made,” said DLNR chairwoman Suzanne Case in a news release. “The members greatly respected and considered the concerns raised by those opposed to the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope at the Mauna Kea Science Reserve.”
Amano’s recommendation came in July after a months-long contested case hearing in which supporters argued TMT would provide educational and economic opportunities, and opponents said it will desecrate the Big Island mountain.
The second round of hearings was necessary after the state Supreme Court invalidated an earlier permit issued by the board.
Protests disrupted a groundbreaking and Hawaiian blessing ceremony in 2014. Construction stopped in 2015 after 31 protesters were arrested for blocking the work.A second attempt to restart construction a few months later ended with more arrests and crews retreating.
Construction of the TMT is expected to provide jobs for more than 100 people, and permanent jobs for as many as 140 workers, at completion. TMT is also required to provide an additional $1 million each year for Native Hawaiian college scholarships and other educational initiatives on Hawaii island.
In addition, the board adopted 43 conditions to the permit including Gov. David Ige’s previously detailed, 10-point plan requiring the University of Hawaii to decommission three existing telescopes, to limit future development to existing sites, and for the TMT site to be the last new telescope site on Mauna Kea.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.