Mauna Kea Rules Hearing

This evening was the local hearing for the proposed Mauna Kea Public Access Rules. As the hearing took place at Waikoloa School I had no excuse not to go, it is practically at the end of our street. Of course I was going to attend even if I had to drive across island, this is an issue that directly affects me.

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

And yes, I testified, attempting to summarize my three pages of written testimony in three minutes. I suspect I got the gist across in a clear fashion, I will submit my written testimony as well.

Other than myself the testifiers were completely drawn from the anti-telescope community. It is unfortunate that the issue has become so polarized that no other members of the community attended. Access to the mauna affects more than just the astronomy and anti-astronomy folks, this should be of interest to anyone who calls the island home.

As such many of the testifiers paid scant attention to the contents of the rules, instead of providing constructive input so much testimony was simply another protest against the Thirty Meter Telescope. Some form of rules need to be put in place with or without the new telescope.

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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 Work of Protecting Mauna Kea

Walking into the building I saw the first sign. A prominent message placed in the windshield of a car parked by the entrance… “TMT, Too Many Telescopes” The protesters were here. I had hoped they would not be, we had things to get done in this meeting. A disruption of the meeting by protesters would mean another delay.

Too Many Telescopes
A protest sign in the window of a car outside the OMKM board meeting
The event was the regularly scheduled meeting of the Mauna Kea Management Board. The board is a group of community members who volunteer their time to the work of protecting Mauna Kea. I was here because Keck Observatory wants to install a set of new weather instruments atop our building and domes. Any change to the external appearance of the structure, however minor, requires approval of the Kahu Kū Mauna council, the Mauna Kea Management Board and the Department of Land and Natural Resources.

To that end I had written a proposal for the new instruments with a description of exactly what we wished to do. Attached is an appendix of photos and drawings to answer any possible questions. I was present to answer the inevitable questions I had not thought of and feared would get asked.

The room was filling rapidly when we arrived, far beyond the usual audience of one of these meetings. As I greeted the many people I know, I noted many new faces. They seemed out of place, a little on edge, a sense of having entered enemy territory. Many of those present were young, in their teens and early twenties, one a young mother, child carried in her arms. The t-shirts betrayed their allegiance, they came with cameras and poorly concealed protest signs.

I have no problem with those who oppose the telescopes atop Mauna Kea attending a meeting like the OMKM board meeting. Public participation is a good thing. Indeed, these meetings are open to the public for a reason, to allow anyone interested to attend and to see for themselves how those charged with managing the mountain do their jobs.

I worried about a protest that would disrupt the meeting, making it impossible to accomplish anything. This did not happen. I will give those who attended credit for showing respect for the proceedings and to those discussing the effort of caring for the mountain.

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