The Process

/The Process

The TMT International Observatory LLC (TIO), a non-profit organization, was established in May 2014 to carry out the construction and operation phases of the TMT Project. The Members of TIO are Caltech, UC, the National Institutes of Natural Sciences of Japan, the National Astronomical Observatories of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the Department of Science and Technology of India, and the National Research Council (Canada); the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) is a TIO Associate. Major funding has been provided by the Gordon & Betty Moore Foundation. This project is a remarkable demonstration of international collaboration and Hawaii stands to be the epicenter of an incredible technology that will transform the way we think about the universe and our place in it.

It began with a dream: To build a revolutionary 30-meter telescope to study the ends of the universe in the most optimal place in our Northern Hemisphere: Maunakea. But the project is much more than scientific advances. It means the opportunity for economic and educational advancement in Hawaii, particularly among future generations of our island children.

The journey to build the Thirty Meter Telescope in Hawaii has been challenging at times. Over the past ten years, the project has meticulously followed the detailed planning and permitting process as laid out by the State of Hawaii. Overcoming many hurdles, the project remains committed to participating in a process that is efficient, fair, and provides an ample opportunity for all voices to be heard.

Our story is still unfolding, but here are some of the major chapters to date:

Selecting Maunakea

In 2009, the Thirty Meter Telescope International Observatory (TIO) selected Maunakea, in Hawaii, as the preferred site to build and operate TMT. However, in December 2015, the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled that the state’s permitting process was flawed, and the State Board of Land and Natural Resources was ordered to re-do the permit process. The re-do of the permit process took approximately a year, and in September 2017, the BLNR approved a new permit for TMT. Opponents challenged the new permit, and it is before the Hawaii Supreme Court.

During the TMT site testing campaign, some of the best conditions that were ever encountered at any of the candidate sites were at Maunakea. Located above approximately 40 percent of Earth’s atmosphere, Maunakea has a climate that is particularly stable, dry, and cold; all of which are important characteristics for capturing the sharpest images and producing the best science. In addition, the atmosphere over Maunakea offers exceptional conditions for astronomical measurements with adaptive optics which will be equipped on TMT. As a result, TMT will likely revolutionize our understanding of the universe.

Engaging the Community

Community outreach and engagement have been important to TMT from the start. Over the last 10 years, the project has held more than 20 public meetings, participated in hundreds of one-on-one meetings and group presentations, and has engaged in open dialog and meaningful discussions with community members and stakeholders to better understand the island’s issues as well as the cultural and natural significance of Maunakea.Engaging The Community

After listening to the community and hearing their concerns for the future of the island’s youth, and their support for education that could lead to high tech jobs. TMT committed to fund $1 million a year for STEM education on the island. TMT, with local advice, asked a group of on-island leaders to determine how best to use $1 million a year for STEM education. After meeting for two years, the group fleshed out what is now the THINK Fund. TMT’s $1 million annual contribution is distributed through the THINK Fund at Hawaii Community Foundation ($750,000) for grants, scholarships and endowment and the THINK Fund at Pauahi Foundation ($250,000) for scholarships. The THINK Fund – short for The Hawaii Island New Knowledge launched in 2014 and is already making a difference in the critical areas of science, technology, engineering and math. To date, TMT has distributed $3.5 million: $2.5 million to THINK at the Hawaii Community Foundation and $1 million to the Pauahi Foundation.

TMT has also initiated the Workforce Pipeline Program to prepare Hawaii Island students for science and technology jobs. TMT is working with the State Department of Education, University of Hawaii Hilo, Hawaii Community College, Hawaii County government, and nonprofit organizations to strengthen STEM skills infrastructure at UH Hilo, HCC and K-12 education organizations serving low income and first-generation college attending populations. Currently, the project funds, supports and participates in programs that are committed to helping Hawaii Island students achieve success at becoming self-directed, lifelong learners who think critically and creatively and function as caring, responsible, productive members of society. TMT is committed to spend additional funds each year on its Workforce Pipeline Program when fully operational.

TMT continues to engage the community through meetings, group presentations and events.

Unforeseen Challenges

Over the last few years, TMT has experienced several unforeseen challenges, starting with the halting of its official groundbreaking ceremony by protestors in October 2014. Subsequent protests on the mountain prevented the start of construction on two separate occasions.

The Courts also invalidated the Conservation District Use Permit (CDUP) and the Consent to Sublease after questioning the state’s legal process. Those two key elements were resolved as follows:

CDUP Contested Case – Work on the telescope on Maunakea was halted in 2015 when the Hawaii Supreme Court invalidated the Conservation District Use Permit on procedural grounds. That permit had been issued by the Board of Land and Natural Resources (BLNR) to the University of Hawaii Hilo to build TMT on Maunakea. The Supreme Court returned the case to the Hawaii Circuit Court and instructed that a new contested case hearing be conducted. The contested case got underway in October 2016. Following 44 days of testimony by 71 witnesses over five months, the hearing concluded in early March 2017, and hearings officer Riki May Amano in July 2017 recommended that a state Conservation District Use Permit be re-issued to allow construction of the project on Maunakea. On Thursday, September 28, the State Land Board announced its decision to approve the Conservation District Use Permit to build TMT on Maunakea. Opponents challenged the new permit before the Hawaii State Supreme Court. On Tuesday, October 30, 2018, the Hawaii Supreme Court, by majority decision, issued its opinion affirming the Board of Land and Natural Resources’ decision to issue a CDUP for construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope on Maunakea.

Consent to the Sublease – On August 8, 2018, the Hawaii Supreme Court issued its unanimous and favorable decision in the Consent to Sublease appeal reversing the decision of the lower court and finding that Kalani Flores was not entitled to a contested case hearing on BLNR’s Consent to the Sublease between TIO and the University. As a result, the sublease is valid.

What's Next

TMT will continue to respect and follow state and county regulations, as it moves forward with fulfilling the numerous conditions and requirements of the state CDUP. There are a number of conditions that must be met prior to the start of any construction, and the timing of that will help inform the timeline.

THE TIMELINE OF TMT

2008

Seven Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) Public Scoping Meetings are held (Hawaii Island: 10/6, 10/8, 10/9, 10/13, 10/14, and 10/15 and Oahu: 10/16)

APRIL 2009

State of Hawaii Land Board Approves Comprehensive Management Plan for Maunakea

JULY 2009

TMT Board of Directors Selects Maunakea as Preferred Site

2009

Office of Hawaiian Affairs Board of Trustees adopts a motion to support Maunakea as the site for Thirty Meter Telescope project

Seven Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) Meetings are held (Hawaii Island: 6/16, 6/17, 6/18, 6/22, 6/23, 6/24 and Oahu: 6/25)

MARCH 2010

State of Hawaii Land Board Accepts Comprehensive Management Plan (CMP) Sub Plans

MAY 2010

Maunakea Management Board Approves TMT Project

State of Hawaii Governor Approves TMT Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)

JUNE 2010

University of Hawaii Board of Regents Approves TMT Project

AUGUST 2010

60-Day TMT Environmental Impact Statement EIS Challenge Period Ends

SEPTEMBER 2010

Maunakea Management Board Approves Conservation District Use Permit Application

State of Hawaii Land Board Accepts Conservation District Use Permit (CDUP) Application

DECEMBER 2010

State of Hawaii TMT Conservation District Use Permit (CDUP) Public Meetings in Hilo and Kona (12/2 and 12/3)

FEBRUARY 2011

The State Land Board Considers the UH application for a Conservation District Use Permit (CDUP) for the Thirty Meter Telescope and Authorizes a Contested Case

MARCH 2011

Hawaii State Legislature introduces Resolutions in support of TMT’s Workforce Pipeline Program

MAY 2011

TMT Conservation District Use Permit (CDUP) Contested Case Pre-hearing

AUGUST 2011

Five TMT CDUP Contested Case Hearings (public) are held (8/14, 8/15, 8/17, 8/18 and 8/25)

SEPTEMBER 2011

TMT CDUP Contested Case Hearings Conclude (9/26 and 9/30)

NOVEMBER 2012

Hearings Officer Paul Aoki issues a 124-page ruling concluding that TMT is consistent with the purpose of the Conservation District and should be granted its Conservation District Use Permit (CDUP)

FEBRUARY 2013

State of Hawaii Board of Land and Natural Resources hears oral arguments regarding the CDUP application (2/12)

APRIL 2013

State of Hawaii Board of Land and Natural Resources issues CDUP (4/12)

DECEMBER 2013

Judge Nakamura, Third Circuit Court, holds hearing on the opponents’ appeal of the CDUP (12/13)

JANUARY 2014

All parties directed to provide briefs on any implications that the Hawaii Supreme Court ruling on the Advanced Technology Solar Telescope (ATST) project atop the summit of Haleakala on Maui had on the TMT case (1/21)

FEBRUARY 2014

Hearing on the implications of the Advanced Technology Solar Case ruling to the TMT case is held (2/20)

MAY 2014

Judge Nakamura, Third Circuit Court, issues Final Judgment affirming State of Hawaii Board of Land and Natural Resources’ Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law and Decision and Order Granting Conservation District Use Permit for the TMT at the Maunakea Science Reserve dated April 12, 2013 (5/5)

JULY 2014

After Three Public Hearings, the State of Hawaii Board of Land and Natural Resources, State of Hawaii votes to approve the sublease with the University of Hawaii

Office of Hawaiian Affairs votes to not pursue a contested case regarding the approved TMT sublease with the University of Hawaii

OCTOBER 2014

A Traditional Hawaiian Ground Blessing Ceremony is Conducted at the TMT Site

TMT launched The Hawaii Island New Knowledge (THINK) Fund

MARCH 2015

The Hawaii State Department of Land and Natural Resources issues TMT a Notice to Proceed regarding project construction on Maunakea.

AUGUST 2015

The Supreme Court hears oral arguments in a case against the State and University of Hawaii at Hilo related to the CDUP

NOVEMBER 2015

A scientific poll taken by TMT shows that 62 percent surveyed support construction of the Thirty-Meter Telescope in Hawaii.

The Supreme Court issues a temporary stay on the Conservation District Use Permit (CDUP) until December 2, 2015

DECEMBER 2015

On December 2, 2015, the Hawaii Supreme Court invalidates the Conservation District Use Permit issued by the Board of Land and Natural Resources (BLNR) to the University of Hawaii – Hilo to build TMT on Maunakea.

At the time the permit was initially granted, a contested case hearing was also approved, as was a stay on construction pending the outcome of the contested case hearing. The Court in its decision noted: “Quite simply, the Board put the cart before the horse when it issued the permit before the request for contested case hearing was resolved and the hearing held. Accordingly, the permit cannot stand.”

The Supreme Court returned the case to the Hawaii Circuit Court with the following instructions: “We therefore vacate the judgment of the circuit court and the permit issued by the Board, and remand so that a contested case hearing can be conducted before the Board or a new hearing officer, or for other proceedings consistent with this opinion.”

JANUARY 2016

A Honolulu-Star Advertiser scientific poll taken shortly after December’s Hawaii Supreme Court decision shows public support for TMT construction increases to 66 percent. This is up from 62 percent in November.

FEBRUARY 2016

The Third Circuit Court transfers the second Conservation District Use Permit (CDUP) contested case hearing to the State of Hawaii Board of Land and Natural Resources.

The TMT International Observatory Board of Governors announces that while Hawaii remains their first choice for the location of TMT, a review of alternate sites will be carried out while the second CDUP contested case takes its course.

APRIL 2016

TMT officials begin studying alternate sites for the Thirty-Meter Telescope in the event the project cannot be built in Hawaii in a timely fashion.

Meanwhile, the state courts send the case back to the Hawaii State Board of Land and Natural Resources to select a hearings officer to oversee the new permitting process needed for TMT construction.

APRIL 2016

On April 1, 2016, the State of Hawaii Board of Land and Natural Resources announces that retired Hawaii Island circuit court judge Riki May Amano (Ret.) has been selected as the hearings officer to conduct the second CDUP contested case hearing.

JUNE 2016

The contested case hearings to oversee the new permitting process needed for TMT construction begins. Hearing officer Amano allows TMT to be a party in the hearings.

JULY 2016

A Honolulu Star-Advertiser scientific poll shows Oahu public support for TMT construction increases to 76 percent. This is up from 70 percent in a newspaper poll taken in January.

AUGUST 2016

A scientific poll shows that Hawaii Island residents support the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope by a nearly 2-to-1 margin. The public opinion poll conducted by Ward Research, Inc. shows that 60 percent of Big Island residents support moving ahead with construction of the TMT project, with 31 percent opposed.

OCTOBER 20, 2016

The second CDUP Contested Case hearing begins in Hilo.

OCTOBER 31, 2016

The TMT International Observatory (TIO) Board of Governors announces that it has identified Observatorio del Roque de los Muchachos (ORM) on La Palma in the Canary Islands, Spain as the primary alternative to Hawaii.

DECEMBER 15, 2016

Third Circuit Court Judge Nakamura rules on an appeal filed by Kalani Flores to vacate the Board of Land and Natural Resource’s consent to the University of Hawaii’s sublease to the TMT International Observatory and require a separate contested case.

MARCH 2, 2017

The Evidentiary Hearings portion of the second Conservation District Use Permit (CDUP) Contested Case comes to a close after hearing 71 witnesses over 44 days.

MAY 30, 2017

Deadline for all parties in the second CDUP Contested Case to submit their findings of fact and conclusions of law.

JUNE 5, 2017

The Hawaii Supreme Court accepts an appeal of a lower court ruling that vacated the Board of Land and Natural Resource’s consent to the University of Hawaii’s sublease to the TMT International Observatory. The case will now be transferred from the Intermediate Court of Appeals to the Supreme Court.

JULY 26, 2017

State Hearings Officer and former Judge Riki May Amano releases a 305-page report recommending that a Conservation District Use Permit (CDUP) be issued to the University of Hawaii by the Board of Land and Natural Resources to allow construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope on Maunakea in Hawaii.

SEPTEMBER 20, 2017

The Board of Land and Natural Resources heard oral arguments from all parties in the contested case on September 20, 2017.

SEPTEMBER 28, 2017

The BLNR issued a 355 page decision granting a CDUP to build on Maunakea to the TMT International Observatory.

NOVEMBER 2017

Three appeals to the BLNR decision are filed with the Hawaii State Supreme Court.

APRIL 13, 2018

The TMT International Observatory (TIO) Board of Governors defers its decision on the Thirty Meter Telescope site until further progress is made in the legal and regulatory processes in Hawaii and at the alternative site in the Canary Islands.

JUNE 21, 2018

The Hawaii State Supreme court hears oral arguments related to the Conservation District Use Permit.

AUGUST 8, 2018

The Hawaii Supreme Court issues its unanimous and favorable decision in the Consent to Sublease appeal reversing the decision of the lower court and finding that Kalani Flores was not entitled to a contested case hearing on BLNR’s Consent to the Sublease between TIO and the University. As a result, the sublease is valid.

OCTOBER 30, 2018

The Hawaii Supreme Court, by majority decision, issued its opinion affirming the Board of Land & Natural Resources’ decision to issue a Conservation District Use Permit (CDUP) for construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) on Maunakea.