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Sierra Club might appeal Land Board's denial of hearing on Mauna Kea management plan


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POSTED: Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Sierra Club-Hawaii Chapter is considering an appeal of a state agency's decision to deny a courtlike administrative hearing on the quality of the Mauna Kea comprehensive management plan, a guide for future activity such as building the $1 billion Thirty Meter Telescope.

“;We're very disappointed,”; said Robert Harris, director of the state Sierra Club chapter. “;It's essentially eliminated the public's ability to participate in this process in a meaningful way.”;

The Board of Land and Natural Resources denied the request yesterday for a contested case, which would have allowed interested parties to flesh out issues and raise questions about the plan.

Approved by the Land Board in April, the plan is meant to ensure the protection of Mauna Kea's cultural and natural resources.

Three universities on the mainland and Canada have selected Mauna Kea for the Thirty Meter Telescope, which would be the world's largest if built. Native Hawaiian groups, who believe the extinct volcano is sacred, argue the telescope would defile it.

The board rejected the special hearing request because the plan is only a guide and not a proposal for specific activity, said Chairwoman Laura Thielen.

“;It's premature to be filing a complaint,”; Thielen said. “;There's nothing that triggers a contested case at this point.”;

Once an application for development is received, individuals or groups can argue for standing in a contested case, she said.

Besides the Sierra Club, three native Hawaiian groups and two men sought the special hearing.

Harris said the plan fails to protect resources, and argued the public has right to intervene in the case because the area is used for cultural and recreational activities. The decision seems “;contrary to law,”; he said.

Opponents have 30 days to appeal, one option the group might pursue, Harris said.

“;It's kind of a mystery to me,”; said Stephanie Nagata, interim director of the Office of Mauna Kea Management, “;why they would be opposed to a plan that would protect the resources.”;