Scope's impact to be limited, UH says
A 143-foot-high solar telescope is proposed for Haleakala
State and federal agencies are doing everything possible to reduce any impact of a proposed optical solar telescope on Haleakala that would be the largest in the world, says a University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy official.
"We have listened to the community over the years," said Michael Maberry, Maui-based institute assistant director for external relations. "We ... recognize that the community feels any construction at Haleakala is significant. We are doing the maximum we can do ... out of respect."
The $180 million Advanced Technology Solar Telescope could have significant impacts on historic and cultural resources and endangered species, but they can be minimized, says a draft environmental impact statement.
One thing that can't be changed is the 143-foot height of the telescope, Maberry said. Some native Hawaiians feel such a tall structure would be "a cultural desecration of a sacred site," the EIS said.
But Maberry said the telescope must get above the mirage effect from heating of the lava area around the observatory to observe the sun, so the actual telescope must be above 90 feet. "We need to be able to point full across the sky," he said.
Construction would begin in fiscal 2009 at the earliest and the 13-foot-diameter telescope would be operating by 2015. The facility would include about 40,500 square feet of building space on a 0.74-acre site.
In the EIS, supporters said the project will result in major advances in understanding the sun and will benefit education and high-tech employment on Maui. Opponents said it will harm a sacred site culturally and physically.
"Sacred sites are preserved and respected by honoring what they are and caring for them -- not by cluttering them with foreign objects or by expecting that the spiritual and scientific must co-exist," wrote Vicki McCarty of Lahaina. "Please choose another site."
Maberry said the site selected for the solar telescope next to the existing Mees Solar Observatory would reduce the amount of construction necessary because the facilities could share space. The other observatories and natural terrain also would provide significant shielding from major populated areas of the island, he said.
The draft EIS outlines actions Maberry said have already begun to minimize possible impacts on both the environment and culture, such as cultural monitoring of the construction and "sense of place" training for operations and construction personnel.
Maberry added: "We have done extensive environmental, archaeological and geological studies of the area. Every inch of it has been thoroughly studied for a long-range development plan."
The 10,023-foot Maui summit was chosen out of 72 proposed sites.
"This isn't just another telescope project," said Jeff Kuhn, associate director of the institute's Maui Division. "This is the biggest jump in our ability to understand the sun since Galileo."
Charles Maxwell Sr., native Hawaiian cultural specialist, said he doesn't support the project but expects it will be built based on his experience.
The other telescopes at the summit were built "without ever contributing anything to the native Hawaiians," he said. If the national solar telescope goes ahead, he said, "They have to give back to the Hawaiian people through education."
"They can create some kind of a center of astronomy and Hawaiian culture that could benefit people living in Hawaii through science and the discovery of Hawaii," he said.
PUBLIC COMMENTS SOUGHT
Three public hearings on a draft environmental impact statement for the proposed Advanced Technology Solar Telescope on Haleakala will be held this month on Maui.
They will be from 6 to 10 p.m. Sept. 27 at Cameron Center Auditorium, Sept. 28 at the Hannibal Tavares Community Center, and Sept. 29 at Kula Community Center.
A 45-day comment period began Friday and will continue to Oct. 23. Comments must be postmarked or received by that date.
They should be sent to: Dr. Craig Foltz, ATST Program Manager, National Science Foundation, Division of Astronomical Sciences, 4201 Wilson Blvd., Room 1045, Arlington, VA 22230. Call (703) 292-4909; fax (703) 292-9034; or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copies of comments should be sent to:
» Department of Health, Office of Environmental Quality Control, REF: ATST, 235 S. Beretania St., Room 702, Honolulu HI 96813. Fax: 586-4186.
» Mike Maberry, Assistant Director for External Affairs, University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy, P.O. Box 209, Kula, HI 96790-0209; fax (808) 876-7603.
» Charlie Fein, KC Environmental, Inc., P.O. Box 1208, Makawao, HI 96768. Call (808) 573-1903; fax (808) 573-7837; or e-mail email@example.com.