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snow on Maunakea

The University of Hawaiʻi Board of Regents (BOR) approved a resolution at its Thursday, August 17, meeting to clarify the university’s role regarding the transfer of UH’s management responsibilities on Maunakea to the Mauna Kea Stewardship and Oversight Authority (MKSOA).

The MKSOA was established by the Hawaiʻi State Legislature in 2022 with the passage of Act 255. Among other things, Act 255 sets a five-year transition period, starting July 1, 2023 and ending on July 1, 2028. At that time, Act 255 expects that all general leases, easement, and permits issued by the Board of Land and Natural Resources (BLNR) to UH are transferred and assigned to MKSOA. The transfer may occur sooner than July 1, 2028, if BLNR and MKSOA allow.

The proposed resolution lists seven actions to be completed by UH during the transition period, while UH still holds general leases, easement, and permits issued by the BLNR to UH:

  • Progress reports to the BOR every six months.
  • Completion of the decommissioning of two Maunakea telescopes (Caltech Submillimeter Observatory and UH Hilo Hōku Keʻa Observatory) no later than August 31, 2024, barring unforeseen setbacks.
  • Establish and fund a new UH Hilo teaching telescope on already developed land at Hale Pōhaku, in coordination with MKSOA and Hawaiʻi Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR).
  • The continued development and implementation of educational programs regarding Maunkaea by the UH Hilo ʻImiloa Astronomy Center.
  • Determining by December 30, 2025—in coordination with MKSOA, the Maunakea Observatories and DLNR—if three additional Maunakea observatory sites will be decommissioned. If the decision is to proceed with decommissioning, the three sites must be identified and reported to the BOR by January 2026.
  • The university will continue to make final decisions regarding stewardship obligations, with MKSOA’s input, until the general leases, easement, and permits issued by BLNR to UH related to astronomy facilities are officially transferred and assigned to MKSOA.
  • Enter into an agreement with MKSOA that outlines how UH and the MKSOA will jointly manage, as that term is used but not defined in Act 255, during the transition period.

The proposed resolution also restates BOR’s commitment to its stewardship responsibilities and to honoring the terms and conditions imposed on UH under the general leases, easement, and permits issued by BLNR to UH. This includes the management plans required by BLNR, which include implementing actions to better manage the impacts of astronomy and ensure benefits from astronomy flow to the community.

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