It was another setback week for the Thirty Meter Telescope, already delayed three-quarters of a year from its construction start, due to dramatic protests.
The $1.4 billion telescope’s Japanese partner, the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan, confirmed that it was suspending funding for a year “due to the stalemate of the construction in Hawaii.” Coincidentally or not, that came two days after Native Hawaiian protesters gathered at the Japan Consulate-General in Honolulu to deliver a letter asking the Japanese government to join them against the project.
For about five months through last December, protesters camped at Mauna Kea Access Road successfully blocked the start of TMT construction. The state and county spent millions of dollars to have law enforcement on-site but failed to dislodge the protests, which only grew in size, resolve and support. A truce, which promised no construction in exchange for unblocking of the road, ended last Saturday – with little word on what comes next.
Instead came discouraging news of the Japanese backer’s funding suspension, plus reports that TMT’s India and China partners were increasingly looking at the less optimal, but more palatable, backup site of Spain’s Canary Islands.
Gov. David Ige and Big Island Mayor Harry Kim can’t simply stand aside and watch that happen.
The Mauna Kea road for TMT is getting steeper, and that’s a shame.