//Hearing Update 12/8

Existing programs meant to preserve and protect the natural and cultural resources of Maunakea were the topic of discussion during Day 14 of the ongoing contested case hearings in Hilo.

Taking the stand today was Stephanie Nagata, director of the Office of Maunakea Management (OMKM), which oversees the resources in the Maunakea Science Reserve.

Nagata provided a history of how the Maunakea Science Reserve was created when the State of Hawaii leased land on Maunakea to the University of Hawaii in 1968 for science-related purposes. In 2000, the University of Hawaii Board of Regents adopted a master plan on how to protect the Maunakea environment, with the plan being approved by the state Board of Land of Natural Resources.

The master plan provides policy for how the University of Hawaii manages its lands on Maunakea, with four major aspects of the plan: 1) on-island dedicated management under the auspices of the University of Hawaii-Hilo; 2) new management structure by Office of Mauna Kea Management, the Mauna Kea Management Board, and Native Hawaiian advisory council “Kahu Ku Mauna”; 3) placing limited restrictions on development within the astronomy precinct; and 4) a project review process on development of any new observatory facility on Maunakea.

During her oral testimony, Nagata explained that the master plan allows the redevelopment only of existing observatory sites within their current footprints, and would allow the construction of only one larger telescope such as the Thirty Meter Telescope at a new site in the astronomy-designated area.

In her testimony, Nagata also explained the footprint of the 525-acre precinct for astronomy observatories and facilities, as compared to the rest of the overall 11,750-acre science reserve. The remainder of the reserve is designated a natural and cultural reserve.

Nagata faced cross-examination through all of today’s proceedings and is scheduled to retake the stand on Monday when the hearings resume.