Saturday, June 7, 2003

Mauna Kea telescopes
project needs formal plan

HILO >> A proposal to build four to six smaller telescopes around the two giant Keck telescopes on Mauna Kea has received a recommendation for approval, but not until the state writes an acceptable management plan for the area.

Attorney Michael Gibson, who served as a hearing officer for the state Board of Land & Natural Resources, made the recommendation yesterday and also said that telescope applicant University of Hawaii should provide $1 million to Hawaii residents to study astronomy.

Gibson made the recommendations in a courtlike contested case in which the Sierra Club and several Hawaiian groups opposed the so-called "outrigger" telescopes.

The telescopes would be about 35-foot-high domes and be built around the two 111-foot-high Keck telescopes.

The $50 million project would be built by the National Aeronautical and Space Administration, but as administrator of the summit, the university is the applicant for Land Board approval.

In an approximately 80-page ruling, Gibson denied approval of the university's proposed three-page management plan, which consisted of an outline referring to other plans dating back to 1983.

Gibson said the outrigger project overall, except for the management plan, deserves approval. He recommended a six-month delay while the university prepares such a plan, submits it for public discussion and receives a Land Board vote on it. The management plan would cover environmental and other concerns.

If any of the parties in the case object, their arguments will be heard by the Land Board on June 26. Gibson recommends public submittal of a management plan proposal by July 15 and final approval of the outriggers by December.

There is no need to chose between astronomy, the environment and Hawaiian culture, Gibson said.

"I do not believe that the three viewpoints are so incompatible that we must choose one to the exclusion of the others," he wrote.

Gibson recommended that the university provide $100,000 a year for astronomy education for 10 years, starting two years after the outriggers are approved. At least $35,000 a year would be for academic education, and at least the same amount per year for job training, he said.

Attorney Ben Tsukazaki, representing the outrigger-advocating Hawaii Island Economic Development Board, called the recommendation "reasonable" in the absence of a management plan.

Deborah Ward, of the Sierra Club, called it "a win for the mountain."

Kealoha Pisciotta, of Mauna Kea Anaina Hou, said the contested case was a success because it revealed there was no management plan.

University attorney Lisa Munger had not seen the recommendation and would not comment.

W.M. Keck Observatory


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