Environmental Considerations

TMT will follow a Comprehensive Management Plan to protect and conserve Maunakea’s cultural and natural resources during both on-going operations and construction to prevent any detrimental impacts. In addition, we will have cultural, archaeological, and construction monitors on-site at all times during construction.

Protecting Indigenous Species – An Invasive Species Control Program will educate employees about the status, condition, diversity and protection given to the natural resources on the mountain, including the Wekiu bug habitat.

Minimizing Energy Use – The project’s facilities will incorporate solar hot water systems, solar panels, energy-saving power and communication devices and will conduct an annual audit designed to further reduce energy use.

Protecting the Water Supply – Comprehensive research by expert, independent hydrologists confirms that TMT will have no adverse impact on the water resources and hydrology of Maunakea. The top of Maunakea is an “alpine desert” with very little rain. Any wastewater from TMT will be collected and transported down the mountain.

Eliminating Waste – No waste from TMT will be left on the mountain.   In addition, we will recycle and reuse solid and non-hazardous water materials as much as possible.

Ensuring Safe Operations – Multiple safety measures will reduce the potential for accidental spills of hazardous materials, including leak detection systems, daily inspections of equipment that handles hazardous materials and a detailed Spill Prevention and Response Plan.

Reducing Visibility – TMT is not sited at the top of Maunakea, but on a lava plain below the summit, specifically chosen to minimize its environmental impact. A special reflective aluminum-like coating reflects the sky and reduces the visibility of the structure. It is only visible from 14% of Hawaii Island, or where 15% of the population lives.

Shareables

The permit application for the TMT project is consistent with the purpose of Conservation District rules, which is to regulate and manage activity on conservation land, not prohibit or restrict land use. The Thirty Meter Telescope would be situated within the Maunakea area already sub-zoned for astronomy-related purposes, and will not cause substantial adverse impact to existing natural resources within the surrounding area. To learn more about the eight major criteria met by the TMT project, read our blog covering the ongoing contested case hearings in Hilo.

A botanical survey of the TMT project site conducted in December 2015 found that there are no endangered or threatened species of flora at the TMT project site. No plant species that are state or federally listed as threatened, endangered or candidates for listing, nor any rare native Hawaiian plant species, were observed. The plant community at the project site is described as alpine stone desert with a naturally low abundance of plants.

The Thirty Meter Telescope will be located on a lava plain below the Maunakea summit to minimize its visual impact. It will not be visible from the summit of Maunakea or from Lake Waiau but will be visible from the northern ridge of Kukahau’ula, where other astronomical facilities are located. The TMT will be built at a lower elevation and various design elements have been incorporated to minimize its visibility. For example, a special reflective aluminum-like coating on the telescope’s dome exterior will reflect the sky and ground. In all, TMT will be only vaguely visible from 14% of Hawaii Island, or where 15% of the island population resides.

Although groundwater is the primary source of drinking water in Hawaii, there are no wells extracting groundwater near the summit of Maunakea.

The nearest wells are located approximately 12 miles away in Waikii Ranch along Saddle Road. TMT will install a zero-discharge wastewater system, with all wastewater collected and transported off the mountain for proper treatment and disposal.

As such, hydrologists have determined there is no reasonable prospect of adverse impact on groundwater.

As detailed in the Final EIS, TMT is being designed to leave zero waste on the mountain. It is a total closed wastewater system, meaning all waste will be collected and transported down the mountain for treatment and/or disposal at a proper facility elsewhere. No wastewater will be released in the summit area. TMT will also recycle and reuse solid and non-hazardous water materials as much as possible.TMT has also eliminated the use of mercury project-wide. Adding further safety measures, the observatory’s fuel storage area and piping will be double-walled and equipped with leak monitors.

Day 15 of the contested case hearings in Hilo had the head of the Office of Maunakea Management (OMKM) taking the stand for a second day of cross-examination.

http://www.maunakeaandtmt.org/hearing-update-1212/

Existing programs meant to preserve and protect the natural and cultural resources of Maunakea were the topic of discussion during Day 14 of the ongoing contested case hearings in Hilo.

http://www.maunakeaandtmt.org/hearing-update-128/

Day 13 of the contested case hearings in Hilo had Fritz Klasner of the Office of Maunakea Management
(OMKM) take the stand. OMKM is the agency that oversees the natural and cultural resources of the
Maunakea Science Reserve.

http://www.maunakeaandtmt.org/hearing-update-126/

Day 15 of the contested case hearings in Hilo had director Stephanie Nagata the head of the Office of Maunakea Management (OMKM) taking the stand for a second day of cross-examination.

http://www.maunakeaandtmt.org/hearing-update-12-5/

A former judge and lawmaker took the stand on Day 11 of the contested case hearings to discuss measures put in place to maintain Maunakea’s resources and beauty. Retired state judge and former state legislator Walter Heen testified today in his role as the first director of the Office of Mauna Kea Management (OMKM).

http://www.maunakeaandtmt.org/hearing-update-122/

Day 10 of the hearing completed cross-examination of expert witness Wally Ishibashi, with University of Hawaii-Manoa botany professor Clifford Smith taking the stand in the afternoon.

http://www.maunakeaandtmt.org/hearing-update-121/

Day 8 of the contested case hearings in Hilo had two expert witnesses return to the stand to complete testimony in their areas of expertise. James Hayes retook the stand today to complete his cross-examination by other contested case parties. He is one of the authors of the TMT project’s Environmental Impact Statement. A second witness, Robert McLaren, also returned to testify on the University of Hawaii’s decommissioning plan or telescopes and future development on Maunakea.