Mauna kea observatory

Cultural practitioners, environmentalists deliver Mauna Kea demands to Governor

No further build-up on Mauna Kea, refusal to accept new UH lease top the list.

Hawaii Independent Staff

We are reaching out to you in your capacity as the highest executive authority in the state of Hawai’i.  You have inherited the state’s decades-long failure to protect Mauna Kea and the rights of Native Hawaiians and Hawai’i’s public therein as detailed below.

1) Cumulative Impacts to the Cultural and Natural Resources are Adverse, Significant and Substantial

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) conducted the first and only federal Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) in the history of astronomy development atop Mauna Kea. The federal court found that the original NASA Environmental Assessment (EA) was inadequate and the court compelled them to start over. NASA then opted to compete the full and more rigorous EIS. The NASA FEIS findings concluded: “That the cumulative impact of thirty years of astronomy development atop Mauna Kea has resulted in ‘substantial, adverse and significant’ impacts to the cultural and natural resources of Mauna Kea”.

The NASA EIS would not have been done if NASA had not been sued by the Office Of Hawaiian Affairs on behalf of the Mauna Kea Hui (a group of Native Hawaiians, recreational users, and members of the public who have doggedly fought for the protection of Mauna Kea, often at their own physical and financial expense).

2) Such Environmental Impacts are Unacceptable under the Law

We stand on the findings of the NASA FEIS and therefore cannot support the University/TMT’s request for a new 65 year lease. The NASA environmental findings mean that neither TMT nor any other development can be approved without being in violation of the Mauna Kea Conservation District (MKCD) rules and regulations. Namely HAR §13-5-30(c)(4) “The proposed land use will not cause substantial adverse impact to existing natural resources within the surrounding area, community or region”.

3) The State itself has already found that both DLNR and UH have failed to protect the natural and cultural resources of Mauna Kea. Please see the appended document put together by the Sierra Club that highlights the key findings of the 1998 state Audit of the Management of Mauna Kea and the Mauna Kea Science Reserve. Such findings include “Both the university and the (DLNR) failed to develop and implement adequate controls to balance the environmental concerns with astronomy development.” (p. 34, 15) UH claims that changes have been made to correct the many violations and failings enumerated in the report, but we maintain that nothing substantive has changed regarding their management of Mauna Kea.

During your tenure as governor, we ask you to take specific action to restore the balance between the appropriate use and the conservation of Mauna Kea that the University of Hawai’i’s (UH) mismanagement and overexploitation has undone. The following is a nonexclusive list of such actions:

(1)  No additional construction on Mauna Kea.
a. Advise BLNR to permit no further construction, permitting, or leasing of Mauna Kea lands;
b. Advise the UH Board of Regents to require the TMT Observatory Corporation to halt construction;

These actions are particularly appropriate pending the full judicial resolution of the pending appeal of the BLNR’s conservation district use permit (CDUP) for the construction of the Thirty-Meter Telescope (TMT) and the ongoing environmental review of the State’s general lease agreement (S-4191) with UH for the use of Mauna Kea;

(2)  Refuse to accept UH’s proposal for a new general lease and the related Environmental Impact Statement Preparation Notice (now out for public comment) pending the full judicial resolution of the appeal of BLNR’s conservation district use permit for the construction of the Thirty-Meter Telescope;

(3)  Refuse to accept UH’s future final environmental impact statement (EIS) for a new master lease under gubernatorial authorities pursuant to Hawaiʻi Administrative Rule (HAR) §§ 11-200-4(a)(1) and -23(a); unless UH fully demonstrates – without relying on putative “economic benefits” as mitigation -  that no cumulative, substantial, adverse impacts to Mauna Kea cultural and natural resources from existing or future land uses will occur; and

(4)  Create a community-based authority to manage Mauna Kea. This was the primary recommendation in “Mauna Kea – The Temple,” submitted by Mauna Kea Anaina Hou and the Royal Order of Kamehameha I to the Board of Land and Natural Resources (BLNR). This hui of land managers would be composed of Native Hawaiian cultural practitioners, environmental conservationists, other rights-holders, government agencies (the Department of Land and Natural Resources’ (DLNR) Office of Conservation and Coastal Lands (OCCL) and the State Historic Preservation Division (SHPD), Hawai’i county representatives, and other community stakeholders. We’ve enclosed a copy of the Temple report with this memo. To be called a community-based management authority, the members must be vetted and chosen by the community, and it must have decision making authority. The current Office of Mauna Kea Management board members are appointed by the UH Hilo Chancellor and the current cultural advisory board, Kahu Kū Mauna, lacks decision making power.

With UH seeking a new master lease for the use of Mauna Kea and the impending construction of the Thirty-Meter Telescope, we urge you to take swift action.  Please contact us at your earliest convenience to discuss the above actions and the future of our sacred mauna.