//Hearing Update 1/10 – Witnesses for the TMT opponents take the stand

1/10 – Witnesses for the TMT opponents take the stand

Following the completion last week of the University of Hawaii’s and TMT’s expert witnesses, this week’s contested case hearings in Hilo featured witnesses representing parties opposing the Thirty Meter Telescope.

At Monday’s hearing, Native Hawaiian educator Ku Kahakalau and Candace Fujikane took the witness stand, and much of their testimony dealt with Native Hawaiian and cultural issues, as they explained their personal beliefs regarding the mountain.

On Tuesday, Marti Townsend testified on behalf of KAHEA: The Hawaiian-Environmental Alliance, where she worked from 2005 to 2012. Following her tenure there, she served as director of The Outdoor Circle and now heads the Sierra Club’s State Chapter.

Townsend described the TMT project and existing observatories as “urban sprawl” on Maunakea. As part of her testimony, she showed a photo of what the 180-foot-high Thirty Meter Telescope would look like on the Maunakea summit.

But what Townsend failed to note was that the Thirty Meter Telescope will not be built at the top of Maunakea with the other observatories, but will instead be located on a lava plateau below the summit to minimize its visual impact. Previous testimony by University of Hawaii and TMT officials showed that the planned Thirty Meter Telescope will be visible from only 14 percent of Hawaii Island and by only 15 percent of the island’s population, mostly around the Waimea area.

Her testimony claiming that TMT will obstruct the viewplanes also was in contradiction to the project’s approved Environmental Impact Statement’s findings that the planned telescope will not interfere with views of the sunrise, sunset, or shadow of Maunakea based on its recommended location.

As part of UH’s decommissioning plan, three of the existing observatories will also be dismantled or in the process of being taken down when the planned TMT is operational on Maunakea. The planned Thirty Meter Telescope site will be the last new area for telescopes on Maunakea, with any future development to be done on existing sites.

While being cross-examined by attorneys representing TMT, Townsend was asked if she or the KAHEA organization had challenged the project’s environmental impact statement during the required and publicized 60-day period back in 2011. Townsend replied she and the organization did not.

Townsend also testified that the state land board and contested case hearings officer Riki May Amano should not consider scientific, economic and educational benefits of TMT as part of the hearings process. This contradicts whether the Conservation District Use Permit (CDUP) should be approved on all merits and impacts of the project.

After Townsend completed her testimony in the afternoon, cultural practitioner Laulani Teale took the witness stand. The hearings continue this week tomorrow and Thursday at the Grand Naniloa Hotel.