Gov. Ige approves a range of Mauna Kea regulations
Gov. David Ige on Monday signed into law a controversial set of administrative rules designed to offer a new layer of protection for land and natural resources managed by the University of Hawaii on Mauna Kea.
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Gov. David Ige on Monday signed into law a
controversial set of administrative rules designed to offer a new layer of protection for land and natural resources managed by the University of Hawaii on Mauna Kea.
The UH Board of
Regents adopted the rules Nov. 6 following a lengthy meeting at UH Hilo featuring the testimony of 99 people, most of whom criticized the proposal for being too
restrictive of Native Hawaiians and cultural practitioners. Some said the effort is aimed at those who are protesting construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope.
The regents did, however, amend the draft in a move board members said would be less restrictive of Native Hawaiian cultural practitioners. The board deleted a requirement that groups of 10 or more must register 15 days in advance before going up the mountain.
“With the opening of Mauna Kea Access Road and a return to normal activity on the mountain, I believe it is the right time to approve the rules,” Ige said in a news release Monday.
The wide-ranging rules went through two rounds of public hearings and underwent a number of revisions during a two-year process. They prohibit a number of activities including such things as littering, speeding, causing noise disturbances, setting fires, using drugs or alcohol, operating drones, snow play and camping.
The rules also aim to regulate commercial activities, tours and motorized traffic, including off-road driving.
“I have personally observed that there was too much traffic on Mauna Kea and these rules will give the university the tools needed to better manage public and commercial access,” Ige said.
The university recently authorized a study to assess traffic capacity on the mountain. The study is also expected to look at various models for regulating commercial tours and for establishing fees.
University spokesman Dan Meisenzahl said that while the study won’t be completed for three years, he would expect regulations to start rolling out within six months to a year. He said the university is already discussing regulations with the tour industry.
Meisenzahl said one thing to look for is the Maunakea Rangers being given the power to hand out citations. The rangers, he said, will be better equipped to address such things as the bare mountain skiing stunt that came to light last year on Mauna Kea.
Meisenzahl said the
university is looking at
putting a limit on rental cars and prohibiting all cars, except for four-wheel-drive vehicles, from traveling on the final 6-mile
gravel road section near
the summit as a safety measure.
“The rules are intended to protect natural and
cultural resources,” he
said. “It’s not about limiting
access. There will still
be 24-hour access to
The Maunakea Management Board is expected
to be consulted on any significant changes, officials said.
The first round of four public hearings on the
initial draft was held in
September 2018, and a second round of four public hearings was held in June. The draft that the regents
finally adopted included
revisions based on
738 written submissions and 225 oral testimonies, officials said.
“It is now time to utilize these rules to address the issues with excessive traffic that have been raised, as well as to issue new permits for commercial tour operations,” UH-Hilo Chancellor Bonnie Irwin said. Irwin
has executive oversight
under the master plan
management plan for UH-managed lands on Mauna Kea.
The rules were filed with the lieutenant governor’s office Monday and will take effect 10 days from filing, on Jan. 23.
The TMT protest is in a state of limbo now after Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim negotiated a truce that led to the clearing of the protest camp off Mauna
Kea Access Road.
Traffic on the road to
the summit is flowing
freely now. But the truce
apparently is good only for two months, and the protest could very well return to the way it was during the last half of 2019, with protesters and police blocking the road.