Thursday, January 17, 2002

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OHA’s Hee asks
NASA for $20 million

The money is meant to soften
the adverse cultural effects of
new Mauna Kea telescopes

By Rod Thompson

HILO >> Office of Hawaiian Affairs Chairman Clayton Hee has requested more than $20 million from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration in payment for using Mauna Kea for telescopes.

Hee made the request to NASA officials yesterday as they held a legally required "consultation" with interested parties concerning four proposed "outrigger" telescopes, so called because of the relationship of these small telescopes to the large primary Keck telescopes.

With the main mirror of each of the four being just 6 feet across, compared with the 33-foot mirrors of the two Kecks, the outriggers would be much smaller.

But a draft agreement among interested parties says, "NASA has determined that the undertaking will have an adverse effect on the summit of Mauna Kea" because of the historical and cultural significance of the mountain to some Hawaiians.

The draft agreement proposes mitigation. "NASA, in consultation with the Office of Mauna Kea Management, will fund, out of funds for the Outrigger Telescopes Project, an initiative that deals with preservation and protection of historic/cultural resources on Mauna Kea and educational needs of Hawaiians as a mitigation component of the Outrigger Telescope Project."

The outrigger project is expected to cost $45 million, but the draft agreement does not name a specific amount for mitigation.

Hee proposed some numbers yesterday: $10 million as an endowment to fund two scholarships for undergraduate and graduate studies of astronomy and Hawaiian culture, plus another $10 million endowment to fund five professorships in those topics at the University of Hawaii-Hilo.

Hee also proposed an unspecified amount to establish a public school curriculum on those subjects.

Hee's proposal was modest compared with one from the Royal Order of Kamehameha. They requested that NASA pay $45 million for mitigation, equal to the entire cost of the outriggers, every year.

Hee's proposal drew support "in concept" from Stanley Roehrig, a former member of the university Board of Regents, which manages the summit.

Roehrig said state Supreme Court decisions have required mitigation where traditional Hawaiian rights have been interrupted.

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