SB936 Redistrubuting Mauna Kea Special Funds

Next up in our examination of the current legislature’s crop of Mauna Kea bills is SB936.

An ancient ahu atop Mauna Kea
An ancient ahu atop Mauna Kea

This bill removes two thirds of the revenue currently going to the
University of Hawaii managed Mauna Kea lands management special fund, redirecting the revenue towards two additional funds. One third would go to a new Mauna Kea special fund administered by the Department of Hawaiian Homelands. The other third would go to a DLNR administered Mauna Kea natural area reserve special fund.

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The 2019 State Legislature and The Mauna

The deadline for the introduction of new bills in the Hawaii legislature’s 2019 session has passed and we can see that at least six bills directly address Mauna Kea.

Mauna Kea seen at dawn from Mauna Loa
Mauna Kea seen at dawn from Mauna Loa

We have previously discussed HB1067, the development moratorium bill addressing Mauna Kea lands above 6,000ft. The remainder are less direct, but are no less aimed squarely at the controversies surrounding new astronomy facilities on Mauna Kea.

  • HB1067 Prohibits any development on conservation lands of the Mauna Kea summit at 6,000 feet above sea level and higher.
  • SB905 Requires the lessor of a master lease for public land to receive reasonable compensation.
  • SB916 Requires that the board of land and natural resources make certain determinations before approving public land dispositions. Restricts the board of land and natural resources from approving the disposition of public lands under certain circumstances
  • SB918 Limits the term of certain public land leases, including any extensions, to no more that thirty-five years.
  • SB933 Requires that the board of land and natural resources conduct a rent review of all leases and subleases of public land once every ten years.
  • SB936 Removes 2/3 of the funds from the university managed Mauna Kea special fund. 1/3 to a new Hawaiian Homelands managed special fund. An additional 1/3 to a new Department of Land and Natural Resources special fund.

Many of these bills do not address the mauna by name, but even a quick reading and familiarity with the issue reveals that there is no other reason for these bills to have been advanced.

What do all of these bills have in common? With the exception of House Bill 1067 all of the senate bills were introduced, and likely authored in large part by state Senator Kaialiʻi Kahele.

It appears that Senator Kahele has made it his mission to destroy astronomy on Mauna Kea. When last year’s blatant attempts in the legislature failed, he has become more circumspect, attempting to add layers of bureaucratic barriers to changing anything on the mauna.

SB916 is the clearest example of this. Not only would it likely make any use permit of Mauna Kea legally impossible, it would have the same effect on all state lands.

It is worth going through the bills individually, considering the possible implications of the language. Over the next few days DarkerView will do just that, examining each of these bills.

Taken individually some of these bills seem reasonable enough, when considered as a group it becomes clear there is a distinct goal. This is not about improving management or oversight of the mauna, there are better ways to accomplish improvement. This is about ending astronomy on Mauna Kea.

Shadow on Shadow

I had a plan for this eclipse.

Partially eclipsed Moon rising above the shadow of Mauna Kea
A partially eclipsed Moon rises just above the shadow of Mauna Kea on January 20th, 2019.

I needed a quiet day to work on some code in the Keck 2 dome control PLC. One problem, every time I load code the dome lights go out. Guys working in the dome tend to object to the lights going out randomly.

Answer? Go up on a weekend when there as only a couple guys on duty and not a lot of work going on. I can have the whole telescope and dome to myself most of the day.

There is also a total lunar eclipse.

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Snow on Mauna Kea?

The forecast looks promising. Not for observing, we lost most of the night last night to fog and clouds, the rest of the week looks worse. It does look like we may get some snow this week. Checking the cameras there are already a few flakes coming down, just a degree or so too warm to stick.

Winter is here… Snow for Christmas?

First Snowflakes of Winter
A few snowflakes in the camera… Snow for the holidays?

Update! Sticking now…

First Snow of Winter
The first snowfall of the 2017-2018 winter season atop Mauna Kea.

It was one of those weeks…

It was one of those weeks.

Keck 2
The Keck 2 telescope, iPhone photo processed in Prisma
It did not look like it was going to be a bad week. The schedule was for a light week with nothing serious envisioned. Better yet, Tuesday was scheduled to be our departmental retreat, a day at the beach with the operations crew, all good.

One. Deb is having a bad spell. With little warning I took off Monday afternoon to drive her down to Kona to spend a couple hours in the infusion lab for medication.

Two. Monday would just not die easily… The phone calls began just after sunset. The Keck 1 hydraulic bearing system would not come on properly, shutting down just after the main pump came online. It became quickly apparent that I would be joining John and Justin for a trip to the summit in the middle of the night.

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Consequences of a Bad LED

A bad indicator LED, a simple ten cent part brought the Keck 1 telescope to a stop this last week.

Logic Card
A section of the AAA logic card.
How can that be? Usually an indicator is just that, an indicator. While an LED may indicate a problem it is rarely the cause of the problem.

I was getting ready to leave the summit when the radio started to speak words of concern, it sounded like something was not working, an instrument rotator?

Worse, the Keck 1 computer room hosted a veritable crowd, from the summit supervisor to all of the techs. Yeah, this was not good, why are they all looking at me? Oh, h%#*!

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Crossing the Saddle at Night

Leaving Hilo I turn towards the shortest path home. It is also my favorite path by far. Not for me the twisting turns, small towns, and driving rains of the Hamakua coast road. I turn towards Saddle Road, to the pass between the enormous volcanoes of Hawaii.

Saddle Road
Saddle Road seen as it was in 2007, before rebuilding
The road is smooth and fast now. The Saddle of legend and rental car prohibition is mostly gone, only fragments remain. While you can still drive bits of the old Saddle, they are no longer the main road, bypassed by the new highway.

Even before the road was re-built this was my favorite route to cross the island. The traffic is far heavier now, the new road no longer offers the challenges and dangers of the old road. Drivers no longer deterred by those dangers now use the new road to cross the island rather than driving around the northern belt road.

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Mauna Kea Snows

We did make it up.

Eric gives scale to a rather  large snowdrift in front of Keck Observatory
Eric gives scale to a rather large snowdrift in front of Keck Observatory
Late in the afternoon, after waiting at Hale Pohaku all day, we received word that the crews were beginning to clear the access road to Keck Observatory. While most of our crew had been released earlier in the day, a small group of us waited for our chance to make the summit facility. When we got word we piled into the vehicles for the attempt.

It was simply gorgeous at the summit, sunny and clear with no sign of the winds that had raged across the summit all week. The evidence of those winds was all to apparent, they had left a landscape of sculpted drifts. While the actual snowfall had not been that much, maybe a foot, the drifts were impressive.

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The Storm Continues

All day the storm atop our mountain continued. As we watched in the cameras the snow fell heavily, often so thick nearby structures disappeared into the white. Unlike yesterday the winds have eased, the snow quickly accumulates where it falls instead of drifting against the structures. As we watch through the day things began to vanish, railings and guardrails buried in the snow.

Mauna Kea Blizzard
A snowstorm continues for a second day atop Mauna Kea, December 2, 2016
The snowplow crews made it to the summit, if only briefly. One pass on the summit ridge near UKIRT could be seen in the cameras as the snow plow passed by. As quickly as they cleared the road the storm again covered it with white. The crews soon realized the futility and retreated down the mountain. They will not even attempt to try tomorrow as the forecast remains dire. They will next attempt to clear the road on Sunday.

Observing is, of course, cancelled.

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The Aftermath of the Storm

The storm appears to be waning now, the satellite shows that much of it has passed the island. Not long ago the snowplow crews let it be known that they would not reach the summit today, try again tomorrow as the storm abates.

I did a bit of a photo survey of the summit using MastCam to check on the summit conditions. Poliʻahu rules Mauna Kea!