Hawaii telescope builders again extend construction timeout

AP News
|
Posted: Apr 17, 2015 11:33 PM

HONOLULU (AP) — A nonprofit company planning to build one of the world's biggest telescopes on a mountain many Native Hawaiians consider sacred will continue to postpone construction, Hawaii Gov. David Ige said Friday.

This is the second time the Thirty Meter Telescope has extended a moratorium on building at the summit of Mauna Kea, the highest peak on the Big Island of Hawaii.

Ige didn't say when construction would resume. Further announcements about the construction schedule would come from the Thirty Meter Telescope, he said.

The company suspended building after law enforcement arrested protesters for blocking the road to the summit and refusing to leave the construction site.

Scientists say Mauna Kea's summit above cloud cover offers some of the world's best conditions for viewing the skies. But some Native Hawaiians believe their creation story begins atop the mountain. It's also a burial site for ancestors and a home to deities.

The governor said he's used the time since the moratorium began on April 7 to listen and learn about Mauna Kea.

Ige said in a statement he's learned it might be necessary to decommission and remove older telescopes from the summit to better care for the mountain. It may also be necessary to reduce the level of activity on the summit, he said, though he didn't specify whether he meant scientific, tourist or other activity.

He also mentioned integrating culture and science, but didn't include details.

Ige spokeswoman Jodi Leong said the governor and his staff will continue to be involved in discussions with different parties to improve stewardship of the mountain.

Ige said the Thirty Meter Telescope is legally entitled to "use its discretion to proceed with construction."

He said he understands not everyone will agree with him on this but he respects "their right to appeal through the court system."

He added the telescope has spent seven years planning and seeking permits for the telescope, a process that included public hearings and community input.