Mauna Kea Public Access Rules Take Effect

On January 13th, 2020 Governor Ige signed the controversial rules governing public and commercial activities on Mauna Kea Lands. They take effect ten days from the signing, on January 23rd.

Mauna Kea sits above a fog shrouded Saddle Road
Mauna Kea sits above a fog shrouded Saddle Road

I have mixed feelings on these rules. Some of the rules are badly needed to control public activity atop the summit of Mauna Kea, rules that can help preserve and protect this place. I believe other rules go too far, attempting to regulate visitor activities that have no impact on the mauna.

My concerns on these rules are known, I have written about them here on DV and I have testified at each round of public hearings. I will not editorialize this time, the rules are now finalized. Those who go to the mauna should be aware of what has changed, and much has changed, expect these rules to be implemented in coming months.

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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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Public Access to Mauna Kea… Round 3

It is now round three for the Mauna Kea public access rules. The first versions of the rules were simply bad and rightly faced unanimous criticism from the community. Virtually nobody testified in support of the first version at the public meetings.

A crowd of tourists watching sunrise atop Mauna Kea
A crowd of tourists watching sunrise atop Mauna Kea

This latest version of the rules is much better, at least someone properly edited the rules and there are no complete blunders in the language.

There are still some items in the rules that are problematic. In general the university is attempting to regulate public activity on the mauna far beyond their mandate in the lease or in the comprehensive management plan.

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Examining the Proposed Mauna Kea Rules

The University of Hawaii and the Office of Mauna Kea Management have released the latest version of their proposed public access rules for Mauna Kea. Along with the release is an opportunity to comment on the new rules.

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

Public comment on the previously proposed rule package was so overwhelmingly negative that the university was forced to withdraw the rules for revision. As this is round two, shall we take a look at the revised public access rules?

These rules will govern all public and commercial access to the summit of Mauna Kea. As such these rules should be of intense interest of anyone who travels to Mauna Kea. All island residents should be made aware of the contents of these rules as the mauna belongs to all of those who live in its shadow.

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Mauna Kea Rules… Take 2

After last year’s debacle that occurred when trying to introduce administrative rules for public and commercial access to Mauna Kea, the University of Hawaii is back with a heavily revised version.

The United Kingdom Infrared Telescope surrounded by the sunset crowd
The United Kingdom Infrared Telescope surrounded by the sunset crowd

How bad were the original version of the rules? In many areas they seemed to be badly thought out, with language far too expansive. Even a cursory reading reveals that the rules were not reviewed by someone familiar with some of the technical language used. Many of the proposed rules would have created safety issues, or even devoid of common sense.

It does appear that they actually listened to the criticism that was received in written form and at the public hearings. Many of the complete gaffes have been removed or reasonably revised.

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BLNR Approves Access Restrictions on Mauna Kea

Friday night the Board of Land and Natural Resources approved rules restricting access to Mauna Kea.

Mauna Kea Observing
My 18″ telescope Deep violet set up under the stars at the MKVIS.
There have been some revisions to the rules as originally proposed. Most notably the closure hours begin at 10pm in place of 8pm, this would allow the VIS to operate the normal evening public program.

I have yet to locate a copy of the final approved rules, it is only a few minutes ago that the decision was approved. I expect they will appear on the DLNR website eventually (Tonight? Monday?). They are effective immediately, I would expect there to be a legal requirement to post them.

It is safe to say that there will be no overnight observing at or near the Mauna Kea VIS. You will need to find a site elsewhere or at least one mile from the access road.

These rules are effective for 120 days, after which we will see what happens. In that time they may be allowed to lapse. It also allows the DLNR time to approve similar, permanent rules through the regular process in place of these emergency rules.

120 days and counting… I make that November 8th, 2015.

Update: Found them!

(a) The area referred to in this rule as the “restricted area” is defined as any lands in the public hunting area that includes the Mauna Kea Observatory Access Road and one mile on either side of the Mauna Kea Observatory Access road.

(b) As used in this rule, the term “transiting” means operating, or being a passenger in, a motor vehicle traveling at a reasonable and prudent speed and having regard to the actual and potential hazards and conditions then existing.

(c) No person shall at any time possess or control in the restricted area any of the following items: sleeping bag, tent, camping stove, or propane burner.

(d) No person shall enter or remain in the restricted area during the hours of 10:00 p.m. to 4:00 a.m., unless the person is transiting through the restricted area on the Mauna Kea Observatory Access Road or is lawfully within or entering or exiting an existing observatory or a facility operated by the University of Hawaii.