Hoku Kea telescope
Hōkū Keʻa

The decommissioning of University of Hawaiʻi Hōkū Keʻa Observatory on Maunakea met a critical milestone. After months of evaluation and outreach, UH has determined that the proposed project will have no significant adverse environmental impacts, as documented in the Final Environmental Assessment (EA) and Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) published in The Environmental Notice on June 23, 2022. The EA prepared by SSFM International Inc. for UH Hilo describes the proposed project, documents potential impacts to resources, and proposes measures to avoid, mitigate, and minimize potential impacts after considering public and agency comments.

The proposed project reviewed in the final EA includes the removal of two buildings and supporting infrastructure, and restoration of the site to its original state, as much as possible.

The Hawaiʻi Department of Land and Natural Resources can now complete its review of UH’s application for a conservation district use permit (CDUP). DLNR will then present the CDUP application to its Board of Land and Natural Resources for its consideration and approval. If the permit is issued, the university can begin the removal of the observatory and site restoration. The decommissioning is tentatively scheduled to be completed by late 2023. Hōkū Keʻa is one of two Maunakea telescopes undergoing decommissioning. The removal of the Caltech Submillimeter Observatory (CSO) is tentatively scheduled to be completed by Caltech in late 2023.

Located on the southeastern side of the 528-acre astronomy precinct on the summit of Maunakea, the Hōkū Keʻa site was built by the U.S. Air Force in 1970 and was one of the first observatories on Maunakea before it was given to UH Hilo.

After lengthy consultation with the Maunakea Management Board and Kahu Kū Mauna, UH is in the planning process to install a new teaching telescope for UH Hilo, a state-of-the-art, 0.7-meter telescope system, in a small structure at the Halepōhaku mid-level facility on Maunakea.