Hearing Update 12/6
While the hearings so far have focused on potential impacts and mitigations by the Thirty Meter Telescope project, the latest expert witnesses have testified about programs already in place to protect the mountain’s environment.
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.
Klasner is OMKM’s environmental and natural resource manager and testified on existing programs meant to protect Maunakea’s natural environment. The 11,288-acre Maunakea science reserve is subdivided into a 10,763-acre cultural and natural preserve, and a 525-acre precinct for astronomy observatories and other related facilities.
Klasner has been with OMKM since 2012, when the organization created his position to fulfill its obligation to preserved and protect the area’s natural resources. In his testimony, Klasner explained that OMKM was instrumental in implementing a master plan to protect the natural and cultural resources of the Maunakea Science Reserve. As part of its duties, it is tasked with implementing the Comprehensive Management Plan (CMP), which identified five priority categories:
- Research and inventories. Inventories have been done or are being conducted on various topics, including flora and fauna, geology and hydrology, climate/weather, air quality and erosion.
Klasner explained that the inventory goes beyond natural resources to record human activity on the mountain, including visitor and vehicle counts entering the area.
- Monitoring. Klasner pointed out that this is an important part of management of the mountain. Biologists accompany archaeologists as part of comprehensive surveys to document native and non-native species in the area. Also monitored is any litter and debris left behind on the mountain to determine best practices at preventing and discouraging such activity.
- Resource management programs. Klasner said one of the organization’s primary concerns is the prevention and control of invasive species. In particular, are invasive species that could impact the wekiu bug and other native species that inhabit the mountain. Some of the recent efforts include removing fireweed and other invasive plants from the Halepohaku area, and eventually restoring the same area with native vegetation. Also being studied is the feasibility of a vehicle car wash facility to ensure invasive species are removed from vehicles before accessing the Maunakea Science Reserve.
- Educational programs. OMKM is responsible for educating and training management staff, stakeholders such as observatory personnel and contractors, commercial tour companies, and the general public. The organization has community outreach programs that encourage volunteer work, such as the fireweed removal duties.
- Printed materials and public forums. The education process and outreach efforts include the development and dissemination of educational materials such as brochures and signage.
In recognition of its work, the agency this year received the Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce’s 2016 Pualu Award for Environmental Awareness.
Many of the parties used their allotted time for cross-examination today to question Klasner’s experience and work on Maunakea. The hearings will take a break tomorrow and continue Thursday at the Grand Naniloa Hotel.