Land Board OKs
‘outrigger’ telescopes plan

Some groups contest how UH is
managing the Mauna Kea site

HILO >> The state has rejected a move to block proposed "outrigger" telescopes on Mauna Kea but has called for more hearings on how to manage the summit area.

Rolf Kudritzki, head of the University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy, called the state Board of Land & Natural Resources ruling, released yesterday, an "important step" toward creating the $50 million project, which would put up to six relatively small telescopes around the two giant Keck telescopes on Mauna Kea.

Members of groups that opposed the project in an earlier courtlike contested-case hearing complained that the public and government agencies will be barred from commenting on management of the summit.

Like an outrigger (support) next to a canoe hull, the six telescopes in 35-foot-high domes would stand next to the two 111-foot Keck domes. Special techniques would combine starlight gathered by the outriggers with starlight from the main telescopes to create extraordinarily clear images.

The outriggers would be built with money from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Functioning as landlord of the summit, the University of Hawaii applied to the Land Board for a permit. Attorney Michael Gibson was appointed as a hearing officer when several opponents of the project requested the contested case.

After the hearings, Gibson recommended that the board approve the project but hold more hearings on a management plan. Meanwhile, U.S. District Judge Susan Mollway ruled that a federal environmental assessment for the project was insufficient and a new one should be written. Opponents asked the Land Board to deny a permit for the project based on that.

The Land Board decision, which rejected the request for a denial of the permit, said Mollway noted that her decision on the federal assessment does not apply to the contested case. Lisa Munger, attorney for the university, said the state environmental assessment is more comprehensive.

Outrigger opponent Kealoha Pisciotta, of Mauna Kea Aina Hou, said this ignores that the state environmental study is based on the flawed federal assessment.

The Land Board decision also calls for renewed consideration of a 30-page management document. Hearing officer Gibson previously rejected that after the university submitted it at the last minute in place of a three-page document.

Pisciotta said the 30-page document merely contains photocopied pages from previous documents going back to 1985. That was the last time the public was allowed to comment on Mauna Kea management, she said.

W.M. Keck Observatory


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