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Reading time: 7 minutes

Gov. David Ige announced that the state Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) issued a notice to proceed (NTP) to the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo for the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) project on Maunakea on Hawaiʻi Island. The permit was issued after DLNR confirmed the completion of the pre-construction conditions and mitigation measures required of the project in the Conservation District Use Permit (CDUP).

The appropriate agencies will work with the TMT representatives to determine the start date.


The next generation telescope will be constructed on UH-managed lands located in the conservation district regulated by the Board of Land and Natural Resources (BLNR). The university granted TMT a sublease and the BLNR issued a CDUP to construct and operate the telescope. The CDUP was upheld by the Hawaiʻi State Supreme Court in an October 2018 ruling.

So that construction of the telescope can begin safely, four unauthorized structures were removed from Mauna Kea earlier this morning by multiple state agencies. The structures were on Department of Hawaiian Home Land property on Maunakea Access Road near the Daniel K. Inouye Highway intersection, on Department of Land and Natural Resources property near the mid-level facilities on Maunakea Access Road at the 9,000-foot elevation and the on the TMT site on the summit of the mountain.

The Hawaiʻi Supreme Court ruled that the two ahu on the TMT site did not constitute a traditional or customary right or practice, and they were removed with guidance from Native Hawaiian cultural advisors.

Statements by President Lassner and state leaders

Statement by University of Hawaiʻi President David Lassner

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This Notice to Proceed is an important milestone in what has been a decade-long open and consultative process through which every requirement in statute, policy and procedure has now been met.

We know there are members of the community, including within the University of Hawaiʻi, who oppose the project. We are truly sorry for the pain some of them feel, and we fully respect their rights under the First Amendment to protest in a peaceful and lawful manner. But the project is also supported by many, and we firmly believe in the benefits of bringing the most advanced telescope in the world to the most magnificent and awe-inspiring mountain in the world.

Beyond the substantial lease-rent, community benefits and commitment to a workforce pipeline for the local community, the Thirty Meter Telescope represents a pinnacle of innovation and human imagination. It will enable humankind to explore from Hawaiʻi not only the stars and galaxies around us, but to stretch the bounds of discovery by helping us see further into our universe than ever before, back toward the beginning of time and our very origins.

With this permit we also accept increased commitments to stewardship. Among our commitments are that TMT will be the last new site developed for astronomy on Maunakea. And while one new telescope will be constructed, five current telescopes will be decommissioned and their sites restored.

We are inspired by Mayor Kim’s vision for Maunakea as a beacon of hope and discovery for the world that celebrates the Hawaiiansʻ historic explorations of the ocean and their groundbreaking discoveries in the skies above.

And as resolved by the Board of Regents, we stand ready to work not only with Hawaiʻi County but with the state, OHA and others in the community committed to the collaborative stewardship of Maunakea’s cultural, natural, educational and scientific resources, and are willing to come together to synergistically integrate traditional wisdom and culture with modern science to build a global model of harmonious and inspirational stewardship befitting of Maunakea.

Statement by Gov. David Y. Ige

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We will proceed in a way that respects the people, place and culture that make Hawaiʻi unique. I will continue to work with the University of Hawaiʻi and all our partners to make meaningful changes that further contribute to the co-existence of culture and science on Mauna Kea.

Board of Land and Natural Resources Chair Suzanne Case

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My staff and I have carefully reviewed the TMT project plans to ensure they are aligned with the permit approved by the board and upheld by the Hawaiʻi Supreme Court. The project has met all pre-construction requirements under the Conservation District Use Permit. As this project moves forward, I ask everyone who goes to Mauna Kea to respect this unique place and its fragile natural and cultural resources.

State of Hawaiʻi Attorney General Clare Connors

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The Notice to Proceed with construction gives project managers, workers and others from our community authorization to begin work on the telescope. They will need safe access to the work site and safe conditions under which to work. The state will work to ensure their safety as well as the right of individuals to engage in speech about the project.

Construction FAQ

Does TMT have permission to construct on Maunakea?

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Yes. The Thirty Meter Telescope project (TMT), under the Thirty Meter Telescope International Observatory LLC (TIO), will be constructed on lands managed by the University of Hawaiʻi (UH) that are located in the conservation district regulated by Board of Land and Natural Resources (BLNR). TIO was granted a sublease from UH and issued a conditional conservation district use permit (CDUP) from BLNR to construct and operate the TMT.

Is the Conservation District Use Permit (CDUP) valid?

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Yes. The Hawaiʻi Supreme Court reviewed and upheld the CDUP in October 2018 to allow the construction and operation of the TMT.

What is a Notice to Proceed (NTP)?

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A notice to proceed is a formal communication from the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) indicating that all pre-construction conditions and mitigation measures specifically required as a condition of the Conservation District Use Permit (CDUP) have been met and completed. The notice to proceed for the Thirty Meter Telescope project TMT was issued on Wednesday, June 19 and posted online.

Does this mean construction can begin?

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The NTP is an acknowledgment that all DLNR requirements have been met and construction can begin. The actual construction start date has not yet been determined. Relevant authorities are beginning planning with Thirty Meter Telescope International Observatory LLC (TIO) representatives and is working to determine the start date.

Are any other permits required?

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There are other standard, construction-related site permits required by Hawaiʻi County including, for example, grading and stockpiling permits. There are also permits required by the state such as the State Department of Health (DOH) National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit. DOH has issued a five-year extension on the current NPDES permit while the application to renew the permit is under consideration.

Was the Notice to Proceed (NTP) process specifically established for TMT?

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No. A notice to proceed is a common condition imposed by BLNR for a Conservation District Use Permit CDUP.

When was the Notice to Proceed (NTP) issued and who is responsible for issuing it?

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DLNR is responsible for issuing the NTP. The DLNR Office of Conservation and Coastal Lands (OCCL) is responsible for overseeing compliance with CDUP conditions which includes the NTP. The OCCL recommended that the chair issue the NTP. The chair signed the NTP on Wednesday, June 19.

How long does it normally take for a Notice to Proceed (NTP) request to be reviewed and issued?

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It varies from project to project based on various factors including Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) review time, how quickly contractors can mobilize, conditions and requirements in a particular Conservation District Use Permit CDUP, etc.

When will construction start?

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The actual construction start date has not yet been determined. Relevant agencies are beginning to plan with Thirty Meter Telescope International Observatory LLC (TIO) representatives to determine the start date. Prior public notice will be given to minimize impacts to commuters.

Will the construction of TMT impact access to Maunakea for cultural practitioners, residents, tourists, tour groups and observatories?

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Authorities will make every effort to maintain normal access other than when the road needs to be restricted for movement of heavy equipment or for the usual road closures due to severe weather. However, authorities will take necessary measures to ensure safety and security.

Why is UH implementing Administrative Rules at the same time construction is imminent?

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UH has been criticized by the State Auditor, OHA and others for not developing Administrative Rules for public access and commercial activities on the lands we lease from DLNR on Maunakea, and we recommitted to do so most recently in response to the Governor’s Ten Point Plan. We were delayed during the lengthy contested case hearing on the Conservation District Use Permit for the TMT project since we could not consult with DLNR while that process was underway out of concern for ex parte communication. Once the contested case was resolved we re-initiated the rulemaking process with public meetings and hearings to listen to the community. Not surprisingly, the community is not of one mind and the process has taken longer than anyone hoped due to the complexity of issues and vast differences in opinion. This current process started in January 2018 with the first initial draft.

Since then, there was the first round of public hearings in September 2018, the Board of Regents approved a request to update the rules, then there was an informal process with meetings with multiple stakeholders and the ability for the public to provide comment. The second round of hearings was approved in April 2019 and held the first week of June. All the milestones were widely reported in the media and on UH communication platforms. To be clear: nothing in the rules regarding public access and commercial activities is designed to infringe upon traditional and customary practices on Maunakea. And nothing in the rules is intended specifically to infringe upon the First Amendment rights of anyone who chooses to lawfully protest astronomy on Maunakea.

Some have questioned the stewardship by UH and DLNR of the mountain.

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UH has previously acknowledged and apologized for the shortcomings in its stewardship of Maunakea in the previous century. This all changed with the 2000 Master Plan, the shifting of primary stewardship responsibility from the Institute for Astronomy at UH Mānoa to UH Hilo, the establishment of the Office of Maunakea Management and the Maunakea Rangers program, the development and approval of the Comprehensive Management Plan, and the resulting active programs of stewardship of environmental, natural and archaeological resources.

UH has been responsive to the audits of our stewardship and has won multiple awards for its Maunakea stewardship program.

The major item still underway is the adoption of administrative rules that will enable us to manage public access and commercial activities on the mauna. That is a difficult and complex process given the lack of consensus in the community, but UH seeks to finish adoption of the rules in 2019.

Beyond these matters of physical stewardship, UH looks forward to bringing stronger component of culture and education to the mountain, consistent with the input we have received from PUEO and the conditions on the CDUP.

Why were the ahu on the TMT site removed?

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The removal of the ahu was not the University of Hawaiʻi’s first choice. The university and others attempted to engage with those believed to be responsible for building the unauthorized structures in hopes of reaching an agreement on the future of the ahu. Those efforts were not successful.

UH cooperated with state agencies in removal of the ahu so that the Conservation District Use Permit CDUP for construction and operation of TMT can be acted upon safely. The ahu were removed in a manner consistent with guidance from Kahu Kū Mauna, the cultural advisors to the Maunakea Management Board and UH.

It is important to remember that the Hawaiʻi Supreme Court specifically affirmed BLNR’s conclusion that these two ahu that were constructed on the TMT Access Way in 2015 as protests against TMT are not protected as Native Hawaiian traditional or customary rights.

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