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Maunakea observatories

On May 26, 2015, Governor David Ige announced a 10 point action plan for the stewardship of Maunakea. Here is an update, as of May 2016, on the steps the University of Hawaiʻi has taken to meet its obligations set by the governor’s plan.

UH Action Status
1. Accept its responsibility to do a better job in the future COMPLETED— UH statement June 1, 2015: “We accept that the university has not yet met all of our obligations to the mountain or the expectations of the community. For that, we apologize and lay out this outline of an action plan for improving our stewardship.”

2. Formally and legally bind itself to the commitment that this is the last area on the mountain where a telescope project will be completed or sought COMPLETED—A letter dated November 17, 2015 (PDF) was signed by UH President David Lassner and State Board of Land and Natural Resources (BLNR) Chair Suzanne Case. This confirmed the commitment in the UH Comprehensive Management Plan (CMP) for Maunakea approved by the UH Board of Regents (BOR) and BLNR.
3. Decommission—beginning this year—as many telescopes as possible with at least 25 percent of all telescopes gone by the time the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) is ready for operation Three decommissionings (25 percent of summit observatories) have been announced: Caltech Submillimeter Observatory (CSO), UH Hilo Hoku Kea and UKIRT, accelerating the commitments in the CMP.

  • UH on track to meet its commitments to contain its imprint on Mauna Kea, February 28, 2016
  • Formal Notices of Intent (NOI) were submitted for Hoku Kea on September 16, 2015 and CSO on November 18, 2015 to the Office of Mauna Kea Management (OMKM), in accordance with the Decommissioning Plan (PDF) of the CMP.
  • UH announced on October 21, 2015 that UKIRT will be the third observatory to be decommissioned. Further planning, deconstruction and site restoration steps will be timed to take advantage of lessons learned from CSO and Hoku Kea and to maximize scientific productivity within the time available before the telescope must be removed.
  • Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) reviewed and approved the first two NOIs and provided procedural guidance on next steps.
  • The decommissioning review process called for in the Decommissioning Plan is currently underway for CSO and Hoku Kea.
  • The plans to decommission CSO and Hoku Kea have been presented to the Kahu Kū Mauna council.
  • The NOI to decommission CSO was approved by the Mauna Kea Management Board (MKMB). The NOI for Hoku Kea is currently under consideration by MKMB, pending consultation with the community.
4. Restart the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process for the university’s lease extension and conduct a full cultural impact assessment as part of that process

  • UH has done initial work on updating the EIS preparation notice, including revised alternatives, but has paused the process to address the return of 10,000 acres to DLNR jurisdiction (#8 below).
  • UH is currently assessing how the EIS can best proceed concurrently with the land return process.
  • A cultural impact assessment will be incorporated into the EIS as it is a requirement of State of Hawaiʻi EIS process.
5. Move expeditiously the access rules that significantly limit and put conditions on noncultural access to the mountain
  • UH has completed an internal draft of rules, which includes addressing access and is preparing for consultation with the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, DLNR, Kahu Kū Mauna Council and MKMB.
  • After consultation is completed and any revisions made, approval will be requested from the BOR and governor to proceed to public hearing.
6. Require training in the cultural aspects of the mountain and how to be respectful of the cultural areas for anyone going on the mountain
  • All workers are required to undergo an orientation on the cultural aspects and natural resources of Maunakea.
  • Orientation for visitors may be required as called for in the CMP and will be set forth in the rules (#5 above).
7. Substantially reduce the length of its request for a lease extension from the Board of Land and Natural Resources
  • Will be addressed in the EIS preparation notice (#4 above).
  • The term will run from when new master lease is executed and not from the expiration date of the current lease.
8. Voluntarily return to full DLNR jurisdiction all lands (over 10,000 acres) not specifically needed for astronomy
  • UH and DLNR have agreed to develop a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to return lands not needed for astronomy to DLNR jurisdiction.
  • UH and DLNR have outlined a proposed map for consideration indicating the 10,000 acres to be returned.
  • DLNR has agreed to work on the first draft of the MOU to implement the return.
9. Ensure full use of its scheduled telescope time COMPLETED—UH time has consistently been oversubscribed on all observatories.
10. Make a good faith effort to revisit the issue of payments by the existing telescope(s) now as well as requiring it in the new lease Efforts are underway through ongoing discussions with observatories.

  • The Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) has committed to significant additional community support; positive discussions with other observatories regarding additional community benefits and stewardship support are ongoing.
  • UH and all observatories understand that the $1 million annual rent agreed to by TMT sets a new standard for expected telescope site rent on Maunakea. The observatories prefer to discuss formal changes in the rents previously agreed to in the context of the full renegotiation of subleases under a future UH master lease extending beyond 2033.
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