Park fights Haleakala telescope plan
The facility would give scientists a good view of the sun, but its size is a cause of concern
Proposed construction of the world's largest solar telescope on Maui's Haleakala summit would hurt the neighboring national park, officials from the National Park Service have told the National Science Board.
In a letter to the board, which will decide on funding for the $230 million Advanced Technology Solar Telescope, the NPS cited concerns about the project's effect on Haleakala National Park's visitors, road, resources, operations and native species.
"As the agency charged by Congress to protect the resources and values of the park, it is our legal obligation to raise these concerns to the proposing agency: the National Science Foundation," the letter said. "To date, the NSF has not satisfactorily addressed these issues and concerns."
Marilyn H. Parris, Haleakala National Park superintendent, said in a telephone interview, "Since the National Science Foundation isn't listening to the National Park Service or our concerns, we felt our only option was to go to the National Science Board, to make it aware of our concerns and issues."
Craig Foltz, NSF Advanced Technology Solar Telescope program manager, could not be reached for comment.
The University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy is one of the National Solar Observatory's co-investigators for the ATST project, which supporters say would result in major advances in understanding the sun.
Michael Maberry, Maui-based IFA assistant director for external relations, said many statements in the NPS letter to the science board are misleading.
He said the project team began additional studies and surveys in response to NPS concerns expressed in October in a letter on the draft environmental impact statement.
Parris was notified by letter in December that the project would respond to the park service's comments as soon as all the information was available, Maberry said. The studies are being completed and responses being prepared to discuss the issues, he said.
The proposed 143-foot height of the telescope is a prime concern, the NPS said in the letter signed by Jonathan B. Jarvis, regional director, Pacific West Region. It would "completely change the experience of the summit of Haleakala by changing the sense of scale," the letter said.
Parris said Jarvis visited Haleakala to see the telescope site and is "very concerned." Park Service officials decided to go directly to the National Science Board with their concerns before it decides to move ahead with the project, she said.
She pointed to the economic impact of Haleakala National Park to Maui and the state, with 1.46 million visitors in 2005 spending $99.4 million associated with their visit and another $6.8 million for hotels, food and drinks. This supports more than 2,000 jobs on Maui, she said.
However, she said, "The national park next door has been pretty much ignored in deliberations whether to build this or not. The NSF hasn't met with us, which it is required to do by law."
"No one is ignoring the National Park Service or their comments," Maberry said. Many discussions were held with NPS concerning its concerns and purposes of the telescope before the draft environmental impact statement was released, he said.
He said the height and color of the telescope dome cannot be changed for scientific reasons. The park service wants the dome to blend in with the natural terrain, but that is not possible because of thermal reactions of darker paint, he said. "It would drastically interfere with performance of the telescope."