Telescope backers to resume construction on Hawaii Island
Construction of a $1.4 billion telescope on land considered sacred by some Native Hawaiians will resume Wednesday, according to the nonprofit company behind the project.
Henry Yang, chairman of the Thirty Meter Telescope Observatory Board, said in a statement that the board decided to move forward after more than two months of consultations.
“Our period of inactivity has made us a better organization in the long run,” Yang said. “We are now comfortable that we can be better stewards and better neighbors during our temporary and limited use of this precious land, which will allow us to explore the heavens and broaden the boundaries of science in the interest of humanity.”
The telescope is planned for the summit of Mauna Kea on Hawaii’s Big Island. It would be one of the world’s largest telescopes.
The company suspended construction in April after law enforcement arrested protesters for blocking the road to the summit and refusing to leave the construction site.
Kealoha Pisciotta, one of the protesters, and one of six plaintiffs challenging the telescope’s construction permit, said Sunday she was shocked by Yang’s announcement.
“I believe that it demonstrates a lack of good faith,” she said.
The announcement came a day after the Supreme Court of Hawaii announced it will hear oral arguments Aug. 27 on the case challenging the telescope permit, she said.
Yang in his statement said most of Hawaii’s people support the TMT project.
Pisciotta said protests will continue.
“It means that our people are going to have to be arrested, and arrested for actually trying to get the TMT to follow the law, not arrested for disobeying the law,” she said.
The Mauna Kea site provides a clear view of the sky for 300 days a year, with little air and light pollution. The telescope project was developed as a collaboration between U.S. and Canadian universities and national institutes of Japan, China and India.
Gov. David Ige in April said the Thirty Meter Telescope board is legally entitled to “use its discretion to proceed with construction.” He said he respected the rights of protesters to appeal in court.