Mauna kea observatory

Voice your opinion on new Mauna Kea lease

The public has 30 days to comment on the environmental impact of UH's proposed new master lease for the Mauna Kea Science Reserve.

News Report
Will Caron

The public has 30 days to submit comments regarding the Environmental Impact Statement Preparation Notice (EISPN) for the University of Hawaii’s (UH) proposed new Master Lease for the 11,288-acre Mauna Kea Science Reserve (MKSR). The EISPN discusses a no action alternative (in which UH’s leases expire with no renewal), an action alternative under which UH leases a reduced land area, and an action alternative under which UH leases the same areas it currently leases.

According to the EISPN:

The purpose of this document is to facilitate the consultation that is called for in the regulations by providing a detailed description of the proposed action and the alternatives that UH is considering, identifying the kinds of environmental consequences which it believes each of these alternatives is likely to cause, and describing the specific analyses that it intends to conduct in order to be able to characterize the environmental effects of each alternative.

UH says it is seeking the new Master Lease for two principal reasons: The first is to incorporate into the Master Lease the new Comprehensive Management Plan (CMP) objectives.

UH has expanded its management objectives for the UH Management Area over the years to include many factors in addition to astronomical research. The Maunakea Comprehensive Management Plan (CMP), approved by the BLNR in April 2009, provides the management framework for the UH Management Area. The CMP addresses scientific (including astronomical), natural, and cultural resources.

The second is “to maintain a physical and administrative environment that will allow the continuance of cutting edge astronomy research on Maunakea.”

While this would include continuing and upgrading some of the existing operations in the summit region of Maunakea and accommodate potential development of new facilities on previously disturbed sites over the next 65 years, it would also minimize the area disturbed by physical structures within the UH Management Area by requiring the re-use of existing facilities or sites, as well as the decommissioning of facilities and the restoration of impacted sites.

UH leases the MKSR under general lease S-4191, which expires on December 31, 2033, and the 19-acre Halepōhaku mid-level facility under general lease S-5529, which expires in 2041. In addition, UH holds non-exclusive Easement S-4697 for the Mauna Kea Access Road between the two leased properties. The leased area for the access road is roughly 71 acres and the easement expires on December 31, 2033.

The two leased properties plus a 400-yard wide corridor on either side of the Mauna Kea Access Road, excluding areas within the adjacent Natural Area Reserve (NAR), make up the UH Management Area on Mauna Kea. UH is seeking to replace both of its existing leases with new leases well before they expire and to extend the term of the road easement.

The three alternatives and, potentially, additional alternatives advanced by stakeholders during the EISPN review period will be evaluated in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS). The EISPN outlines the kinds of potential adverse and beneficial impacts that are likely to result from the alternatives being considered. These potential impacts, and others identified by stakeholders during the review of the EISPN, will be evaluated in the DEIS.

To view the EISPN, click here.

Address comments to the proposing agency, with copies to the consultant and Office of Environmental Quality Control.

Proposing Agency: University of Hawai‘i at Hilo, 200 W. Kāwili Street, Hilo, HI 96720.
Contact: Donald Stranley, (808) 932-7348

Accepting Authority: Governor of the State of Hawai‘i, 415 South Beretania Street #5, Honolulu, Hawaii 96813.
Contact: (808) 586-0034, c/o Office of Environmental Quality Control (808) 586-4185.

Consultant: Planning Solutions, Inc., 210 Ward Avenue, Suite 330, Honolulu, HI 96814.
Contact: Perry White, (808) 550-4483.