Will TMT Be The Biggest Building on the Island?

You see this claim bandied about routinely in newspaper comment sections and Facebook, It has several variations, from biggest, tallest, to largest, to most area. This has been repeated since the beginning of the controversy and continues to the present as a protester staple.

TMT Rendering
An overhead view of the proposed Thirty Meter Telescope, credit TMT Observatory Corporation

This particular myth is easily disproved as there are any number of buildings on the island that are much larger in several respects. All you need is some elementary school math.

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The Calm Before the Storm

You almost certainly know by now, the Thirty Meter Telescope will restart construction this coming Monday. It was announced in a live press conference Monday from the governor’s office. At 7am Monday, July 15th, the Mauna Kea Access Road will be closed to permit the passage of heavy equipment.

Mauna Kea Protest
Protests on Mauna Kea, June 24, 2015. Photo by Dan Birchall, used with permission.

With this both sides are preparing for the coming confrontation. The protesters are rallying the troops, the state and county have had the response plans in place for a while.

Meanwhile the observatories prepare to get jammed in the middle. We have cancelled planned maintenance operations and stationed a minimum crew in the dorms at Hale Pohaku, just a few guys to keep the telescopes on-sky if the road is impassable due to the protests.

There are already a few protesters on the mauna, a few vehicles at Puʻu Huluhulu, a few to be seen along the summit road. It appears that the larger gatherings will occur over the weekend.

It appears both side expect the action to be at the Mauna Kea Access Road and Saddle Road junction rather than at Hale Pohaku like last time. The plan seems to be forcing the protesters further down the mountain. Actually that is a good plan, safer for everyone protesters included with good road access adjacent to Saddle Road, lower in elevation.

Personally? I was scheduled to go up next week, I cancelled that, opting to go up this Friday to get a last few things done. I may possibly take a turn as part of the minimal crew staying on the mauna for a few days depending on the protests and the ability of law enforcement to keep the road open.

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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Preparing for the Storm

There will be protests, that much is clear. Beyond that certainty there is no certainty. When? How big? How long? We just do not know, it is likely no one does.

A mamane tree in the fog atop Mauna Kea
A mamane tree in the fog atop Mauna Kea

As we prepare for the restart of construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope, those of us whose lives revolve around the mauna can only guess and prepare best we can.

While there is news of plans at the state and county level to deal with the protests, there is little information on the details in those plans. Both sides are keeping their cards close. We are given to understand that the county will be the lead agency it is clear that there will be state support.

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Arguing with a Flerf

What is a flerf?

Flerf is simply short for a flat earth fanatic, a little easier to type than the whole thing. Some may consider this derogatory, I do not particularly see it as so. Well? Maybe a little. But considering what I have been called by flerfs, I have no regrets.

Chang'e 5 Earth and Moon
The Chang’e 5 test vehicle service module took this photo of Earth and the Moon together. Credit CSNA

Our local flerf goes by the screen name of Adam Asing. That might even be his real name as there is a local musician of the same name. We have occasionally identified other screen names he uses, probably because he has been blocked under his primary alias in so many media outlets.

I would probably not normally notice Mr. Asing, except he routinely attacks the telescopes in just about any media he still has access to. As such he intentionally makes himself a target. As such I sometimes respond… It can be so much fun!

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Legislative Rebuff

It appears that every single bill attempting to address Mauna Kea issues is dead, at least for the 2019 session.

The moon rising in partial eclipse over the mauna shadow
The moon rising in partial eclipse over the mauna shadow

March first is a deadline referred to as ‘first decking’ in local legislative lingo. This is the date by which the bill must be in final form to allow review before the final votes. No vote, no crossover, being passed to the opposite chamber, house or senate.

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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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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.

HB1067 Mauna Kea Development Moratorium

With the Hawaii state legislature now in session we now have a clear view of those bills targeting the controversy on Mauna Kea. While of the bills concerning the mauna are indirect, one is quite direct. HB1067 is a complete ban on any development above 6,000ft on Mauna Kea. Blunt and simple.

The Thirty Meter Telescope
An artist concept of TMT at night, with the laser guide star system illuminated.

Introduced by representative Amy A. Perruso  representing central Oahu district 46, Launani Valley and Wahiawa . The bill has a long introduction, but a very simple change to the state statutes…

§304A-    Mauna Kea conservation district lands; development; prohibition.  Notwithstanding any law to the contrary, no new construction or development on conservation lands on the Mauna Kea summit located at six thousand feet above sea level and higher shall take place after December 31, 2019.

HB1067 from the 2019 Hawaii Legislature
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Justice Wilson’s Dissent

In the wake of the supreme court decision on the TMT conservation district use permit last month, many like myself have been reading the opinions of the court. I was pleased to see that the justices were very clear in their views, there is very little room for any future legal steps in this case. This decision sets clear precedents for future land use cases that will certainly occur over the same issues.

Aliʻiōlani Hale
Aliʻiōlani Hale housing the Hawaiʻi Supreme Court. CC Image by D. Logan/Wikimedia Commons
The majority opinion is a systematic refutation of each argument made by telescope opponents. This is particularly true in the numerous trivial matters that opponents attempted to inflate into major issues. Issues like Judge Amanoʻs ʻImiloa membership, or the brevity of some responses to the absolute snowstorm of submissions in the contested case.

In addition to the majority opinion you may read the quite interesting concurring opinion by Justice Pollack. He agrees with the majority on the final result, but promotes using existing frameworks to judge land use cases such as this. It is also interesting the dissenting Justice Wilson joins in this concurring opinion, at least for the first three parts.

The dissent written by Associate Justice Michael Wilson was published almost two weeks later than the majority opinion. The reason for this delay is not given, it is possibly a result of Justice Wilson analyzing the majority opinion and responding to it in his dissent.

As is often the case with decisions like this, it is more interesting to read the dissent than the majority opinion. Any flaws or weaknesses in the case can be examined and can be more informative. This case is an exception to that, the dissent is interesting, if for somewhat different reasons.

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