Board of Land and Natural Resources approves TMT permit in 5-2 vote

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The Hawaii Board of Land and Natural Resources approved Thursday a permit to build the Thirty-Meter Telescope on Mauna Kea.

The 5-2 vote adopted the recommendation by retired judge Riki May Amano to approve a Conservation District Use Permit (CDUP) following a contested case hearing.

The board said in a press release that it recognized the responsibility to strike a balance between native Hawaiian traditional and cultural practices and other stakeholders.

“This was one of the most difficult decisions this board has ever made. 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,” said Suzanne Case, chair of state board and Department of Land and Natural Resources.

“I do believe that the board conducted a fair and rigorous process. The contested case allowed those who wanted to voice their opinion voice their opinion,” said Gov. David Ige.

The board adopted 43 conditions to the permit including Ige’s 10-point plan requiring the University of Hawaii to decommission three existing telescopes, any future development to occur on existing sites, and the TMT site to be the last new site on Mauna Kea.

Additional conditions include:

  • Design choices to mitigate visual and aesthetic effects,
  • Waste minimization plan for hazardous & solid waste, including a zero discharge wastewater system,
  • Cultural and natural resources training for workers,
  • No impact to water resources under the public trust doctrine, Lake Waiau hydrology & water resources considerations,
  • Educational exhibits, specific community outreach efforts and cultural observation days,
  • Invasive species prevention and control,
  • Continued public access and continuing consultations with cultural practitioners, and
  • Arthropod monitoring and Wekiu bug habitat restoration study.

Under the CDUP, builders of the TMT must also provide $1 million more each year for college scholarships for native Hawaiians and other educational initiatives on Hawaii island. This is in addition to the $2.5 million for scholarships, classroom projects, and STEM grants that has already been provided every year since 2014.

The University of Hawaii said in a statement:

“The university first applied for this permit seven years ago, and we believe this decision and the underlying vote represent a fitting and fair reflection of an issue that has divided many in the community who care deeply about Maunakea.

“Maunakea is precious to all of Hawaii, and we know that science and culture can synergistically coexist there, now and into the future. We have a solid foundation to build on with the plans that have been developed and the work that has been done thanks to the dedication of the Office of Maunakea Management and the volunteer community members who have served on the Mauanakea Management Board and the Kahu Kū Mauna council over the past 17 years.

“We know we have more to do, and we stand firmly committed to collaboratively build a global model of harmonious and inspirational stewardship that is befitting of the amazing cultural, natural, educational and scientific traditions and resources of Maunakea.”

TMT International Observatory Board Chair Henry Yang said in a statement:

“On behalf of the TMT International Observatory LLC, we express our sincere appreciation to the Board of Land and Natural Resources, hearing officer Judge Riki May Amano and other officials involved in carrying out the thorough process called for in the remand decision issued by the Hawaii Supreme Court in December 2015. We thank all community members who contributed their thoughtful views during the hearing process and we are deeply grateful to our many friends and supporters for standing with us over the years.

“We are greatly encouraged by BLNR’s decision today to grant the CDUP. Following this approval, TIO will continue to respect state procedures and to comply fully with applicable legislation and regulation. In moving forward, we will listen respectfully to the community in order to realize the shared vision of Maunakea as a world center for Hawaiian culture, education, and science.”

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