Governor orders Mauna Kea stand down

Aliyah Chavez

The Thirty Meter Telescope will not be built at this time

The Thirty Meter Telescope will not be built atop Mauna Kea at this time. Hawai'i Governor David Ige announced in an internal memo this morning that law enforcement personnel will be leaving the site.

The telescope, an object of controversy, is still slated to be built. The construction will now be delayed. “They are not abandoning Hawai’i,” Gov. Ige said in a press conference this afternoon. “We believe at this point in time, it made sense for us to bring our state law enforcement home.”

Nearly a thousand people closed off the only road that leads to the mountain’s summit in July. The blockade was led by thirty-three elders, or kupuna, who were arrested following the event. Since then, protesters have occupied the base of Mauna Kea, a sacred mountain located on the Big Island of Hawai’i.

[Related: Kanaka Maoli: ‘Do not mistake our aloha for weakness’]

Ige said the stand down is temporary. Hawai’i state law enforcement is prepared to aid the Thirty Meter Telescope whenever they are prepared to start construction again.

“We don’t have a specific time table for what that looks like,” Ige said, adding they will be acting in a “prudent manner.”

The state estimated that it has spent $15 million so far to pay for protesting costs. “Certainly the cost is an issue,”Ige said. He said they are scaling back to give law enforcement a break.

The governor said the state plans to return regular access to the summit at Mauna Kea for public use.

Mauna Kea, also known as Mauna a Wakea, is a 13,800-foot mountain on Hawai‘i Island, and considered the most sacred site to Kanaka ‘Ōiwi, the Native Hawaiian people. Named after Wākea, Father Sky, it is home to a number of religious deities, and is a traditional burial ground for the most revered ali‘i and kahuna.

The TMT International Observatory LLC, a non-profit organization, selected Mauna Kea to be its building site in 2009 after developers concluded it had the best characteristics for “capturing images and producing the best science.” Their mission is to utilize the dormant volcano’s unique geographic positioning to study astronomy and present their findings to various academic institutions around the globe.

Developing.

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Aliyah Chavez, Kewa Pueblo, is a reporter-producer at Indian Country Today's Phoenix Bureau. Follow her on Twitter: @aliyahjchavez or email her at achavez@indiancountrytoday.com

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