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OHA demands TMT halt until Native Hawaiian concerns, safety issues resolved

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    An artist’s rendering of the Thirty Meter Telescope atop Mauna Kea.

Office of Hawaiian Affairs Chairwoman Colette Machado and OHA Trustee Dan Ahuna are demanding a halt to construction of the long-stalled Thirty Meter Telescope near the summit of Mauna Kea “to avoid harm to Native Hawaiians” and ensure public safety.

In a letter today to Gov. David Ige, the two OHA officials noted the Native Hawaiian community’s longstanding concerns over the state’s “decades-long pattern mismanagement of Maunakea.”

They say construction should be halted until a series of steps are taken, including prohibiting action that may provoke or intimidate Native Hawaiian cultural practitioners and those opposed to the project. This would include the dismantling of culturally or spiritually significant structures.

Other steps sought include prohibiting the use of “unwarranted force” against nonviolent protesters and engaging all parties in the controversy in an effort to alleviate tensions.

Machado and Ahuna also want the establishment of mutually agreed-upon spaces where cultural practitioners and protesters can safely assemble, peacefully voice their opposition and monitor construction activities and cultural sites.

Construction of the long-stalled Thirty Meter Telescope will start near the summit of Mauna Kea Monday, Gov. David Ige announced Wednesday.

“We have followed a 10-year process to get to this point, and the day for construction to begin has arrived,” Ige declared.

Ige and state officials announced this week that the road to the top of Hawaii’s tallest mountain will be closed starting Monday as grading and other heavy equipment heads up to the construction site.

Construction on the next-generation telescope stopped in 2015 after protesters were arrested for blocking work vehicles from traveling to the site. A second attempt to start construction a few months later ended with more arrests.

Late that year, the state Supreme Court halted the project on procedural issues. Following a contested case hearing replay, the high court in 2018 upheld the telescope’s construction permit.

The state last month issued a formal notice to proceed with building the telescope after TMT officials satisfied more than 40 conditions listed in their construction permit.

Construction on the northern plateau of Mauna Kea is expected to stretch at least a decade and cost more than $1.4 billion. State officials have said that five of the current 13 observatories on the summit will be decommissioned concurrently.

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