2/23 Catching up on the Contested Case
The contested case hearing in Hilo has reached the 40-day mark.
Since the hearing began in October, there have been 40 evidentiary hearings with more than 50 witnesses from both sides of the TMT debate completing their testimony and cross-examination.
When you add the half-dozen pre-conference hearings in August and September, the process has been quite comprehensive.
To put things in perspective, in comparison, the initial Conservation District Use Permit hearing in August and September 2011 took a total of seven hearing days, in which 23 witnesses testified and all were cross-examined without the need for time limits.
While many larger issues have been heard during this round of the hearing, the main purpose of the proceedings is to determine whether the TMT project meets the eight criteria of a Conservation District Use Permit to allow construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope on Maunakea.
Here is a summary of points made by witnesses who testified in support of the TMT project:
Designated site on Maunakea for astronomy uses: Perry White, principal author of the Conversation District Use Permit application filed by the University of Hawaii for the TMT project, testified that the Thirty Meter Telescope meets the eight criteria regarding proposed land use in a state-designated Conservation District. This includes the permit application being consistent with the purpose of Conservation District rules, which “is to regulate and manage conservation land use, not prohibit or restrict land use,” he said.
White noted that the Thirty Meter Telescope will be situated within a Maunakea area already sub-zoned for astronomy-related purposes. The 550-acre area designated for astronomy use is situated within the 10,000-acre Maunakea Science Reserve.
Planned location of TMT on Maunakea: During his testimony, James Hayes discussed how he helped prepare the TMT project’s Environmental Impact Statement and why the specific location was selected on Maunakea to minimize the telescope’s visual impacts.
Hayes noted that the planned Thirty Meter Telescope will not be built at the top of Maunakea along with the other observatories, but located instead on a lava plain below the summit to minimize its visual impact. TMT will be only visible from 14 percent of Hawaii Island and by only 15 percent of the island’s population, mostly around the Waimea area. No portion of the TMT Observatory will be visible from the Maunakea summit or Lake Waiau, and the facility will be built a reasonable distance away from any archeological sites.
Reducing the size of telescope: Responsible for managing the design and construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope, Project Manager Gary Sanders testified that design changes were made to the planned TMT to minimize visual impacts on Maunakea.
Several design efforts were implemented to reduce the telescope’s exterior dome and overall size.
No historical properties or burials at TMT site: Archaeologist Robert Rechtman during his testimony in December said studies conducted at the site found no surface archaeological features; nor were there any cultural deposits, artifacts, or human skeletal remains. He also reported that there are no historic properties or burials on the TMT site.
In our next blog, we’ll discuss the arguments made in support of the economic and educational benefits of the TMT project and why the hearing in Hilo may be wrapping up soon. The hearings continue next week Monday through Thursday at the Grand Naniloa Hotel.