Work to­gether to en­sure TMT avoids more de­lays

West Hawaii Today - - Opinion - Jerry Smith is a res­i­dent of North Ko­hala.

The Hawaii State De­part­ment of Land and Nat­u­ral Re­sources (DLNR) re­cently re­newed a con­struc­tion per­mit to build the Thirty Me­ter Tele­scope (TMT) on the sum­mit of Mau­nakea. Mau­nakea is well-es­tab­lished as the finest ob­serv­ing site in the world due to the al­ti­tude and sta­ble at­mos­phere. The TMT would be the most pow­er­ful tele­scopes on Mau­nakea with nine times the power of the largest ex­ist­ing tele­scopes. This news is en­cour­ag­ing for the project sup­port­ers who make up a large ma­jor­ity of the pop­u­la­tion of Hawaii. They see the TMT as a sci­en­tific, eco­nomic, and ed­u­ca­tional ben­e­fit for Hawaii but the fu­ture of this project is still very un­cer­tain.

There is a strong op­po­si­tion from a cul­tural and sep­a­ratist mi­nor­ity who are try­ing to stop TMT. These pro­test­ers be­lieve that they are the judges, not the state, who will de­cide Mau­nakea’s fu­ture. They have been suc­cess­ful, through le­gal ap­peals and il­le­gal protests, in de­lay­ing the project for many years. The gover­nor has tried to find some com­mon ground that will al­low science and cul­ture to share ac­tiv­i­ties on MK. The pro­test­ers have shown no in­ter­est in shar­ing. They de­mand their way or the high­way.

Af­ter all the years of frus­trat­ing de­lays the TMT project has set April 2018 as the date they must start con­struc­tion. At the present time, there are still sev­eral ob­sta­cles the TMT project and the state must over­come in a rel­a­tively short time.

First: The site sub­lease must be re­newed promptly. The State Supreme Court has to over­turn the Hilo Cir­cuit Court in­val­i­da­tion of the Uni­ver­sity of Hawaii sub­lease to TMT. The lower court held that the sub­lease re­quired a sep­a­rate con­tested state hear­ing. This is a new re­quire­ment just im­posed by the court.

Sec­ond: The courts must not al­low more su­per­flu­ous con­tested hear­ings. There will be more ap­peals by the op­po­nents to re­peat all their ob­jec­tions that they put for­ward at an ex­haus­tive con­tested state hear­ings early this year. Those ob­jec­tions were again briefly re­peated for a meet­ing of the Board on Nat­u­ral Land Re­sources. Both re­views ap­proved the con­struc­tion per­mit with sev­eral caveats that have been agreed to by TMT and UH.

Third: TMT has to know that their site will be pro­tected and ac­ces­si­ble. Even if all the le­gal items are over­come by next April, site ac­cess must be as­sured by the state. Two years ago when TMT tried to start con­struc­tion, pro­test­ers over­whelmed the pro­tec­tive forces and stopped all ac­tiv­ity. The same thing will hap­pen again with­out some ma­jor change in al­low­ing un­lim­ited ac­cess to Mau­nakea by pro­tes­tors. State lead­ers must de­velop a de­tailed plan to avoid the ob­struc­tion of two years ago.

It will take a strong com­mit­ment by the state to con­vince the TMT that they have an ad­e­quate plan to pro­vide safe ac­cess to their site. With­out this level of com­mit­ment the TMT will have no choice but to go to their al­ter­na­tive site at La Palma in the Ca­nary Is­lands. At some point, af­ter years of de­lay, they will have to give up on Mau­nakea even at the sci­en­tific sac­ri­fice of ac­cept­ing an in­fe­rior site. The chances of over­com­ing these ob­sta­cles within the next six months seem very un­likely un­less they are ac­tively worked to­gether, by the state gov­ern­ment.

If the pro­test­ers suc­ceed in fur­ther de­lay­ing TMT and deny­ing their le­gal rights, it will be a fail­ure and a dis­grace for the lead­ers of our state. With TMT on Mau­nakea, Hawaii will re­main the best and most pro­duc­tive sci­en­tific as­tro­nom­i­cal site in the world for the fore­see­able fu­ture. It would be a place all peo­ple in Hawaii, who sup­port the law and value knowl­edge, could be proud of.

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