All University of Hawaii-managed lands on Maunakea, including the site for TMT, are in a conservation district, which requires a Conservation District Use Permit approved by the Hawaii Board of Land and Natural Resources (BLNR). Following a contested case hearing that took seven days over the course of two months, the BLNR issued a CDUP to the University of Hawaii at Hilo for the construction of TMT on Maunakea.
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.
After studying all testimony and data, State Hearings Officer and former Judge Riki May Amano released a 305-page report on July 26, 2017, recommending that a Conservation District Use Permit (CDUP) be issued by the Board of Land and Natural Resources for the TMT project.
In her report, Amano said TMT’s proposed land use will “not cause substantial adverse impact to existing natural resources within the surrounding area, community, or region” and “will not be materially detrimental to the public health, safety, and welfare.”
Amano also concluded that the proposed land use “reasonably protects identified native Hawaiian rights and practices.”
Amano also noted in her report that the entire process relating to the conservation district use application for the development of the TMT Project “completely negates any argument that the University and TIO could have the requisite specific ill-intent to ‘mistreat’ Mauna Kea.
To the contrary, the participation by the University and TIO in the preparation and consideration of the CDUA and their participation in this proceeding demonstrates the complete opposite: an intent and commitment to participate in a legal process designed to carefully consider the merits of the development of the TMT Project consistent with the eight criteria set forth for a conservation district use permit 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. In its decision, the Land Board determined that the Thirty Meter Telescope “will not pollute groundwater, will not damage any historic sites, will not harm rare plants or animals, will not release toxic materials, and will not otherwise harm the environment. It will not significantly change the appearance of the summit of Mauna Kea from populated areas on Hawaii Island.
“The TMT site and its vicinity were not used for traditional and customary native Hawaiian practices conducted elsewhere on Mauna Kea, such as depositing piko, quarrying rock for adzes, pilgrimages, collecting water from Lake Waiau, or burials. The site is not on the summit ridge, which is more visible, and, according to most evidence presented, more culturally important than the plateau 500 feet lower where TMT will be built.”
The BLNR’s decision was subsequently appealed to the Hawaii State Supreme Court. On Tuesday, October 30, 2018, the Hawaii Supreme Court, by majority decision, issued an opinion affirming the Board of Land and Natural Resources’ decision to issue a CDUP for construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope on Maunakea.
To read the decision, click here