Hundreds form chain at UH Manoa to protest Thirty Meter Telescope

Local News

KHON2 has learned there is no firm date to resume work on what is billed as the world’s largest telescope to be built on Mauna Kea.

A spokesperson for the project said there are ongoing talks among stakeholders, including the governor and the University of Hawaii.

While the state Department of Land and Natural Resources awards leases and subleases on conservation land, including the area atop Mauna Kea,

it is the University of Hawaii that manages activity on the mountain.

This comes on the heels of yet another demonstration Friday, this one drawing hundreds both young and old to the Manoa campus of the University of Hawaii to protest the project.

The demonstrators brought their mana, their power, and their voice against the Thirty Meter Telescope.

To make sure their message carried weight, the demonstrators took pohaku, or stones, near the taro patches at the Kamakakuokalani Center for Hawaiian Studies, where university students learn about the culture and history of Hawaii.

One by one, they passed them a quarter-mile down Dole Street, right to Bachman Lawn fronting the office of UH president David Lassner.

There, demonstrators built what they referred to as their ahu, or memorial, a visual message to the university.

“You feel it. You feel the energy from all the islands,” said Kalani Waiau. “We just have to do what is right.”

“We absolutely respect the rights of the protestors,” said the university’s spokesman, Dan Meisenzahl. “Everyone’s voice should be heard. It’s the essential purpose of an institute of higher education.”

Meisenzahl says the university has no plans to remove the ahu.

Lassner himself was on Kauai, where there was a similar demonstration against the project.

Walter Ritte, a veteran activist who helped to organize the protest on the Manoa campus, told KHON2 that he was caught by surprise when, after a series of hearings and community meetings, officials went ahead and approved the project a few years ago.

“When we witnessed the proceedings, we said no way they were going to build on the mountain,” said Ritte. “And then they did it and now we’re like, what?!”

KHON2 asked Lance Pedro, a university senior, why it was important for him to take a stand.

“This is our kupuna’s (elders’) aina (land),” said Pedro. “That land is sacred to us, to us kanaka (native Hawaiians).”

Ritte says the ongoing demonstrations against the telescope both here and on the mainland remind him of the protests years ago to stop the military from bombing the island of Kahoolawe.

“This new generation, this is their Kahoolawe,” said Ritte, “and they are doing a great job.”

Ritte added, “it is so uplifting that people are actually doing something instead of just talking on Facebook.”

The rally comes after the Associated Students of the University of Hawaii student government passed a senate resolution opposing the construction of any new telescopes on the northern plateau of Mauna Kea, including the proposed TMT, without further input from stakeholders.

Excerpt from Senate Resolution 13-14:

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the ASUH strongly opposes the appropriation for student and state funds, and leases for the construction of any new telescopes on the northern plateau of Mauna Kea, including the proposed TMT, without further input from stakeholders;

Protesters have continuously blockaded access to the construction site for weeks, saying the telescope should not be built on land considered sacred to Native Hawaiians.

Just a few days ago, Gov. David Ige called for a one-week moratorium on construction of the telescope, which is expected to end next Tuesday.

If and when work on the telescope resumes, the self-proclaimed “protectors” atop Mauna Kea say they are prepared to risk arrest again during their blockade.

UH Master Lease Renewal Enivronmental Impact Statement (EIS)

The University of Hawai’i (UH) currently leases the 11,287-acre Mauna Kea Science Reserve (MKSR) under a general lease, which expires December 31 2033. It also leases the 19-acre Halepōhaku mid-level facility under a general lease which expires in 2041. UH is now requesting the State of Hawai’i’s Board of Land and Natural Resources (BLNR) grant them new 65-year leases and extend a related easement for the access road so that it can continue to use the MKSR for astronomical purposes.

The BLNR decision to grant the new leases, or not, is subject to the environmental review process required by Hawai’i Revised Statutes (HRS), Chapter 343. Given the scope of the action, UH has decided that it will prepare a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) in support of its request, and has submitted a comprehensive Environmental Impact Statement Preparation Notice (EISPN) to the State’s Office of Environmental Quality Control.

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