Audit is mixed on use of Mauna Kea
The state urges better monitoring of permits for astronomy sites in a conservation district
HILO » State Auditor Marion Higa says the state's management of astronomy and other activities on Mauna Kea has improved since she wrote a stinging report in 1998, but more needs to be done.
State officials responded that they have tried unsuccessfully to get approval from the Legislature for some of what Higa wants, and they are already doing some of the other things she recommends.
Higa noted that the University of Hawaii, which administers the summit, adopted the Mauna Kea Science Reserve Master Plan in 2000, making a number of reforms.
Management of the summit was transferred from the Manoa campus to the Hilo campus, and three new oversight bodies were established: the Office of Mauna Kea Management, the Mauna Kea Management Board, and the Kahu Ku Mauna Council.
But those bodies are limited in what they can do because they lack rule-making authority, Higa said.
UH-Hilo Chancellor Rose Tseng agreed, saying the university started in 2004 to try for rule-making authority, and plans to try again in 2006.
A summary of Higa's report also says, "The university also does not appear to systematically monitor its tenant observatories for compliance with conservation district use permit requirements and was recently fined $20,000 for violations in May 2004."
Conservation district permits are granted by the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, which has authority over Mauna Kea, and leases the summit to the university.
Bill Stormont, director of the university's Office of Mauna Kea Management, says his office has been careful to work closely with the Department of Land and Natural Resources since the 2004 fines.
Thus, Higa's critique, which extends from 1998 to the present, might apply more to the early years of that period than to the present, he suggested.
Higa also had positive words for DLNR, but she criticized that department for also not monitoring conservation district permits.
DLNR Deputy Director Bob Masuda noted that the $20,000 in fines in 2004 were assessed because of the vigor of the department in seeking improper actions by observatories. The offenses generally involved improper facilities, such as improper placement of weather towers and antennas.