No, the state should not allow TMT on Mauna Kea

Honolulu Star Advertiser  |   By Kealoha Pisciotta, Bianca Isaki and Candace Fujikane 

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September 7, 2016

Since Sept. 1, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has been holding its 2016 World Conservation Congress in Honolulu.

Committed to conservation and sustainable development, the congress, which ends Saturday, has brought together world leaders, nongovernmental organizations, businesses and indigenous and grassroots organizations to act on the challenges to the environment we all face.

While Hawaii’s leaders see this gathering as an opportunity to showcase Hawaii’s conservation efforts, our accomplishments cannot hide the elephant in the room: the state-supported proposal for a massive Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) proposed for a designated conservation district near the summit of Mauna Kea.

Mauna Kea dwells in the heavenly realm of po, out of which is born the potential for all things. Because of this, Mauna Kea is the equivalent of Papahanaumokua- kea: They are the two sacred places in Hawaii that make complete our creation stories, one in the highest heavens, the other in the darkest depths of the oceans.

Mauna Kea is the firstborn of Papahanaumoku, Earth Mother, and Wakea, Sky Father, and is the elder sibling of kalo and the Hawaiian people.

Culturally significant places such as the “Ring of Shrines” are concentrated on the northern plateau. The many water deities who reside on Mauna Kea are a constant reminder that the mountain sits atop five aquifer systems that provide water for the entire island.

Laws protect the conservation district, and TMT cannot comply with these laws. The proposed TMT would be 18 stories tall on 5 acres on the pristine northern plateau. Construction would excavate 20 feet into the mountain, relocating 64,000 cubic yards of earth. A commercial dump truck can hold 10-14 cubic yards of dirt. It would take over 4,700 dump trucks to remove the earth at the TMT’s construction site.

The state Board of Land and Natural Resources (BLNR) is responsible for protecting the fragile ecosystems in conservation districts through a permitting process. In 2011, however, it approved the TMT’s application, which the Hawaii Supreme Court later vacated based on BLNR’s error of approving the application before the contested case hearing.

Today, 24 organizations and individuals are preparing for the second contested case hearing against the TMT.

Development projects being considered for permitting must be consistent with the purpose of the conservation district, which is “to conserve, protect, and preserve the important natural and cultural resources of the State.”

Furthermore, the state Constitution protects rights customarily and traditionally exercised by Native Hawaiians.

The permit application asks whether the TMT would have a “substantial adverse impact.” NASA’s 2005 environmental impact statement on the Outrigger Telescopes concluded that the 13 telescopes on Mauna Kea have had a cumulative impact that is “substantial, adverse and significant.

The mountain is overbuilt, and the TMT would only add to adverse impacts.

Yet the TMT is touted as a model of “sustainable astronomy” because it will be “zero waste,” use solar panels, truck wastewater down the mountain, and be painted an aluminum color to reduce visibility.

These are short-sighted, manini concessions to “sustainability.”

The 10,400 gallons of liquid waste generated by the TMT would require two trips by a large-sized tanker truck each week. The TMT will also generate 120 cubic feet of trash per week. Operation of the TMT will increase the use and underground storage of chemicals that will need to be transported by truck. All of these hazardous activities threaten both sacred ground and the waters of the aquifer.

We ask World Conservation Congress participants to address indigenous concerns over the “World Heritage” designation, to bring critical attention to Mauna Kea, and to pass a resolution urging the state of Hawaii to reconsider its support for construction of the TMT."