//Hearing Update 1/31 – Petitioners E. Kalani Flores and Deborah Ward take the stand

1/31 – Petitioners E. Kalani Flores and Deborah Ward take the stand

Day 32 and 33 of the contested case hearings in Hilo this week had two members opposing the Thirty Meter Telescope project testifying.

Contested case petitioners E. Kalani Flores and Deborah Ward took the stand representing themselves. Both are part of group of petitioners who initiated the Hawaii Supreme Court appeal that led to the ongoing contested case hearings. Flores is a Hawai‘i Life Styles – Assistant Professor at Hawai‘i Community College. Deborah Ward served as a faculty member of the University of Hawaii Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Management.

Flores used his testimony to explain cultural practices and history of Maunakea. Under cross examination Flores testified that he grew up on Oahu, worked on Kauai and has lived on Hawaii Island since 2000. Flores felt that TMT’s design plans to build away from the Maunakea summit, reduce the telescope dome size and use reflective dome material to reflect the existing surroundings shouldn’t be considered as mitigation efforts.

One recurring theme by many of the TMT opponents throughout the hearings is that they were never consulted during the project’s planning process, which included the environmental impact statement, or during archaeological inventory surveys processes. During cross-examination of Flores, University of Hawaii attorneys asked whether Flores was consulted as part of the cultural impact analysis for the TMT site. After being shown a 2009 e-mail notifying him of the process, Flores admitted that he was notified but did not give a specific reason as to why he didn’t submit testimony as part of that process.

Flores and Ward testified that they believe the state Conservation District Use Permit application required for TMT construction is not in compliance with the mandated management plans intended to protect the natural and cultural resources on Mauna Kea. Both felt their interpretation of the Conservation District Use Application for the TMT project should consider impacts for the whole mountain and not just the astronomy precinct. UH and TMT attorneys during cross-examination asked the two whether they understood the designated boundaries of the Maunakea Science Reserve (The 11,288-acre science reserve is subdivided into a 10,763-acre cultural and natural preserve, and a 525-acre precinct meant for astronomy observatories and other related facilities.).

Ward also claimed during her testimony that there has been no official hydrology study for the Thirty Meter Telescope project or Maunakea. The planned TMT facility will have zero discharge on the mountain, with all wastewater transported down the mountain for treatment and disposal at a proper facility.

Hydrologist Tom Nance previously provided testimony earlier in the contested case hearing that any contamination of the Big Island aquifer was highly unlikely since the nearest groundwater water well was nearly 13 miles away near Parker Ranch. It should also be noted that the mountain summit is several thousands of feet above the island aquifer and any water on the summit would be filtered through miles of lava rock.

During cross-examination by UH attorney Pete Manaut, Ward acknowledged that water and fuel would be transported to and from Maunakea in regulated and reinforced storage tanks, which are meant to reduce the potential for spills.

UH attorney Manaut also questioned Ward on whether she had a professional background in land use, archaeology, botany and hydrology as related to the TMT project planning process. Ward responded that she did not, but had taken classes in some of those fields.

Kumu hula teacher and Hawaiian cultural practitioner Paul Neves took the stand late in the afternoon and is expected to continue his testimony at a later date. The hearings will take a two-week recess and resume on February 13 at the Grand Naniloa Hotel.