Hopefully TMT Will Be Built

Thirty Meter Telescope
Photo Courtesy TMT Observatory Corporation

This week brought good news to the supporters and backers of the proposed Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) planned to be built on Mauna Kea mountain on the Big Island of Hawaii. The Hawaii State Supreme Court ruled in TMT’s favor to give the project the green light to start construction after many years of protest and debate.

I am hopeful that the TMT will be built and that the astronomy industry can move forward in a future filled with even more discovery as we quest to learn about the heavens around us.

From TMT here is their press release regarding the recent ruling:


The Hawaii Supreme Court, by majority decision, today issued its opinion affirming the Board of Land & Natural Resource’s decision to issue a Conservation District Use Permit (CDUP) for construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) on Maunakea.

Henry Yang, Chair, TMT International Observatory Board of Governors, issued the following statement in response to the news:

“On behalf of the TMT International Observatory, we are grateful for the Hawaii State Supreme Court’s ruling that will allow TMT to be built on Maunakea. We thank all of the community members who contributed their thoughtful views during this entire process. We remain committed to being good stewards on the mountain and inclusive of the Hawaiian community. We honor the culture of the islands and its people and do our part to contribute to its future through our ongoing support of education and Hawaii Islands’ young people. We are excited to move forward in Hawaii and will continue to respect and follow state and county regulations, as we determine our next steps. We are deeply grateful to our many friends and supporters for their tremendous support over the years.”

Work on the telescope on Maunakea was halted in 2015 when the Hawaii Supreme Court invalidated the Conservation District Use Permit on procedural grounds. That permit had been issued by the Board of Land and Natural Resources (BLNR) to the University of Hawaii Hilo to build TMT on Maunakea. The Supreme Court returned the case to the Hawaii Circuit Court and instructed that a new contested case hearing be conducted. The contested case got underway in October 2016.

Following 44 days of testimony by 71 witnesses over five months, the hearing concluded in early March 2017, and hearings officer Riki May Amano in July 2017 recommended that a state Conservation District Use Permit be re-issued to allow construction of the project on Maunakea. On Thursday, September 28, the State Land Board announced its decision to approve the Conservation District Use Permit to build TMT on Maunakea. Opponents challenged the new permit before the Hawaii State Supreme Court. Today’s ruling affirms BLNR’s decision to issue the CDUP.

In the majority opinion the Court noted: “In this opinion, we address whether the BLNR properly applied the law in analyzing whether a permit should be issued for the TMT.  Upon careful consideration of the written submissions, the applicable law, and the oral arguments, and for the reasons explained below, we now affirm the BLNR’s decision authorizing issuance of a Conservation District Use Permit (“CDUP”) for the Thirty Meter Telescope (“TMT”).”

As for next steps, TMT will move forward with fulfilling the numerous conditions and requirements of the state CDUP prior to the start of any construction.

TMT
The Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) Project has been developed as collaboration among Caltech, the University of California (UC), the Association of Canadian Universities for Research in Astronomy (ACURA), and the national institutes of Japan, China, and India with the goal to design, develop, construct, and operate a thirty-meter class telescope and observatory on Maunakea in cooperation with the University of Hawaii (TMT Project). The TMT International Observatory LLC (TIO), a non-profit organization, was established in May 2014 to carry out the construction and operation phases of the TMT Project. The Members of TIO are Caltech, UC, the National Institutes of Natural Sciences of Japan, the National Astronomical Observatories of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the Department of Science and Technology of India, and the National Research Council (Canada); the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) is a TIO Associate. Major funding has been provided by the Gordon & Betty Moore Foundation.

For more information about the TMT project, visit tmt.org, www.facebook.com/TMTHawaii or follow@TMTHawaii.

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Melvin Ah Ching is a photographer, consultant, blogger, desktop publisher, and computer enthusiast living and working in Hawaii. The Hawaii Files have been online since 2006.