TMT Cleared the Legal Hurdles – Now is the Time to Build It

The Hawaii Files Blog and its publisher Melvin Ah Ching is a supporter of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) project that is slated to be built on Mauna Kea mountain, island of Hawaii. The scope has cleared all the legal hurdles including a favorable ruling from the Hawaii Supreme Court which can be read at the following link (PDF):

A summary comment from the ruling by Imua TMT Facebook page administrator Sam King II who re-posted the following from member Michael Zhang:

I learned a few interesting facts from the Supreme Court decision:
1. The mountain does have historical shrines, indicating it was of significant religious importance since prehistory: “The large number of shrines on Mauna Kea indicate that there was a pattern of pilgrimage, ‘a walk upward and backward in time to cosmological origins,’ to worship the snow goddess Poliʻahu and other akua such as Kūkahau, Līlīnoe, and Waiau.”
2. The ancient Hawaiians did not think the sacredness of the mountain meant it couldn’t be used for economic purposes: “Archaeological research also indicates that from as early as 1100 A.D., and continuing through the 1700s up until the time of Western contact, Native Hawaiians mined extremely high quality, dense, blue-black basalt in a 4,800 acre adze quarry on the southern slopes of Mauna Kea concentrated between 11,500 and 12,400 square feet above sea level to produce tools to cut trees, shape canoes, and carve other smaller items.”
3. The Mauna Kea Science Reserve “totals 11,288 acres, consisting of a 10,763-acre cultural and natural preserve and a 525-acre Astronomy Precinct. Under the MKSR Master Plan, however, astronomy development is restricted to a defined 150-acre portion of the 525-acre Astronomy Precinct.”
4. The TMT site is not near anything of cultural or religious importance: “There was no physical evidence that the TMT Observatory site was used for storing piko, iwi (bones of the dead), placenta or other artifacts. There was no evidence of ahu (shrine or altar), lele (sacrificial altar), or other historic properties therein. There was also no evidence of mele (song, anthem, or chant) or hula being performed in the area. After extensive surveying, no archaeological or historic sites or burials were found in any of the TMT Observatory site or Access Way areas.”
5. TMT will not be visible from the most relevant cultural areas: “the TMT Observatory will not be visible from Lake Waiau, Puʻu Līlīnoe, or Kūkahauʻula, which are culturally sensitive areas of the summit of Mauna Kea, and that the TMT would not impact the other cultural practices discussed above.”
6. The University of Hawaii, which manages the land, has committed to decommission 5 telescopes and not build any more: “there are commitments to restore the abandoned Poliʻahu Road and to decommission three telescopes by the time TMT is operational. There is also a requirement to decommission two additional telescopes by December 31, 2033, a commitment to not seek any additional telescope sites to replace the five telescopes that will be removed, and a plan for decommissioning other telescopes, including the TMT.”
7. There will be no environmental harm due to TMT: “the TMT will not cause substantial adverse impact to existing plants, aquatic life and wildlife, cultural, historic, and archaeological sites, minerals, recreational sites, geologic sites, scenic areas, ecologically significant areas, and watersheds”
8. TMT comes with millions of dollars of grants for local students: “use of the land by TMT will result in a substantial community benefits package, which has already provided over $2.5 million for grants and scholarships for STEM education benefitting Hawaiʻi students. The package also includes an additional commitment to provide $1 million annually for this program.”
9. Many people suspect the TMT protest is really about Hawaiian sovereignty, aka independence from the United States. At least one of the anti-TMT parties to the Supreme Court case makes this argument: “Appellant Fergerstrom asserts that the summit of Mauna Kea, as well as the ahupuaʻa of Kaʻohe in the District of Hāmākua are lands still held by the Hawaiian Kingdom.”
In a nutshell these nine reasons are justifications to go ahead with construction. Let’s get TMT built. It is for our future.
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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.