Lā 232: Protesters will be told when work resumes

Thursday | November 12, 2015 By TOM CALLIS Hawaii Tribune-Herald

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HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald file phtoto Thirty Meter Telescope protesters walk in the crosswalk near the Mauna Kea Visitor Information Center to block construction vehicles in June. The state Department of Land and Natural Resources says it will alert protesters before crews return later this month for equipment maintenance and other site preparation activities.

Thirty Meter Telescope opponents can expect to be alerted before contractors return to Mauna Kea later this month, according to a state Department of Land and Natural Resources spokesman.

But how that notice will be given and when remains to be seen.

“We’re still working out the details based on when TMT says it will actually do their maintenance and repairs,” said Dan Dennison, DLNR senior communications manager.

After months of waiting because of protests, the TMT International Observatory announced Tuesday a “small crew of local workers” will go to the telescope construction site near the summit later this month to conduct “site preparation activities, starting with equipment maintenance and repairs.” No date was announced.

Based on a verbal agreement with the Mauna Kea “protectors,” DLNR said it would tell them which day workers will return to the TMT site if they in return stopped camping on the mountain at night.

TMT opponent Lanakila Mangauil said the protesters expect the state to keep its part of the bargain.

“They said they wanted to have a meeting with us,” he said. “Unfortunately, it’s kind of up in the air right now.”

So far, protesters, who object to construction on the mountain, which they consider sacred, have stood in the way of contractors three times, with arrests occurring during the last two roadblocks. Construction has been delayed as a result for more than half a year.

Mangauil, who was speaking from the mountain via cellphone Wednesday, said he expects a similar scenario when contractors return. He said they don’t want to permit any work that could allow or lead to more bulldozing.

“They first broke into our grandmother’s house with their shotgun pointed at her, and then it jammed,” he said. “And you think we are going to let you come in and fix your gun?

“Until they have the tractors in trailers ready to be picked up, we will not let you fix those tractors.”

Mangauil added he is disappointed work might continue before the state Supreme Court rules on a legal challenge of TMT’s Conservation District land use permit.

“I’m sure a lot of our people are ready,” he said. “We had a rest, we had a break.”

“We are still going to be standing for our mountain, no matter what,” Mangauil said.

Dennison said arrests will be made if people block the workers from reaching the construction site.

Email Tom Callis at tcallis@hawaiitribune-herald.com.