Hawaii’s Board of Land and Natural Resources today voted 5-2 to approve a permit to build the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT). The vote follows retired judge Riki May Amano’s recommendation this past July to approve the permit. Amano’s recommendation came after a lengthy and often contentious hearing forced by opponents of the TMT, who successfully argued that the land board had not followed proper procedures in 2011 in issuing its first permit for the telescope.
The board placed 43 conditions on the permit, including a previously negotiated plan requiring the University of Hawaii to decommission three existing telescopes atop Mauna Kea, where the TMT is to be built, and barring any future telescopes on the mountain. In a statement, Suzanne Case, chair of the board, said: “This was one of the most difficult decisions this Board has ever made. The members greatly respected and considered the concerns raised by those opposed to the construction of the Thirty-Meter Telescope at the Mauna Kea Science Reserve.”
TMT officials have said that they will move the telescope—which would be one of the world’s largest and most powerful land-based instruments—to an alternate site at La Palma in the Canary Islands if they are not able to start construction in Hawaii by April 2018.
Lanny Sinkin, who represented Temple of Lono, a Hawaiian faith group based on Hawaii Island, says TMT opponents will continue to challenge the project. “This is far from over,” he says.
Amano recommended that any permit carry numerous conditions. They include requiring TMT employees to attend cultural and natural resources training, implementing an invasive species control program on the telescope site, and providing $1 million a year for a “community benefits package,” including local science education and workforce development programs. TMT has said its plan already includes many of the recommended actions.
The mountains to the gODS!