Hearing Update 12/16
The first of the Thirty Meter Telescope’s scheduled witnesses took the stand at the contested case hearing in Hilo today.
Day 17 of the hearings had two witnesses testifying, one from a legal perspective, the other cultural.
David Callies, law professor at the University of Hawaii School of Law, discussed the public trust doctrine, which is part of the Hawaii State Constitution that requires the State of Hawaii to hold public resources like Maunakea in trust for the benefit of the people.
Some TMT opponents have argued that the public trust doctrine applies to the TMT project.
In his testimony, however, Callies said the public trust doctrine does not apply to the project. He said that the public trust doctrine “does not require pristine and absolute preservation,” but “instead, the public trust doctrine requires a balancing process between protection and conservation of public trust resources, on one hand, and the development and utilization of these resources, on the other.”
Callies holds law degrees from the University of Michigan and Nottingham University and is a co-author of two legal casebooks, one on land use and one on real property.
In his legal interpretation, Callies felt that the proposed land use for the TMT project would be considered public or quasi-public because it would result in benefits to the public in the form of educational research and economic opportunities. Because of that, the public trust doctrine would not require a balance between public and private uses.
He also testified that the public trust doctrine does not apply to the TMT project, since the public trust doctrine traditionally deals with water resources. Based on his review of the project documents, Callies said “there is no evidence that the proposed project would restrict or otherwise impair any water resource.”
Callies was asked his legal opinion with respect to Native Hawaiian traditional and customary rights on the subleased site of the proposed planned TMT project. He responded that he felt there is no evidence that TMT construction will adversely affect or impede on Maunakea cultural access or gathering sites on Maunakea at Lake Waiau and the nearby adze quarry. Callies also stated that TMT and the University of Hawaii have proposed an array of mitigation measures to lessen, if not eliminate, the effects on whether constitutionally-protected traditional and customary rights that might be affected by the project.
A second witness, Native Hawaiian Naea Stevens, took the stand during the late afternoon in support of astronomy and the Thirty Meter Telescope. Stevens graduated from the University of Hawaii-Hilo’s College of Hawaiian Language and has descendants from the Waimea area on Hawaii Island. The 22-year-old lived on the Mainland and moved to Hawaii six years ago “to learn about my heritage, to be with family, and to study at UH.”
“Maunakea holds a special place in my heart,” Stevens testified. “In my initial trips there, I learned a great deal with regards to astronomy and I was sparked by an intense, burning passion to learn of my ancestry and the ancient ways of wayfinding and navigation.”
Stevens said if it wasn’t for the summit roads offered by the astronomy community, his “ability to travel and experience the mana on the mountain would be greatly decreased.”
“In fact, it is thanks to the astronomy community and the decision to bring astronomy to Hawaii Island that people can easily, freely and safely travel to Maunakea to practice cultural practices and share in the grandeur of the mountain,” he said.
The last contested case hearings for the month of December are scheduled for Monday and Tuesday (Dec. 19 and 20) before taking a break for the holiday season. The hearings will then resume in January.