• Mauna Kea Stewardship Bill Runs Into Opposition at Senate Hearing

    March 23, 2022
    A bill that would establish a new authority to oversee the stewardship of Mauna Kea’s summit ran into a volley of opposition Tuesday in a hearing before a state Senate committee.
     
    A number of speakers told the Higher Education Committee that they fear the legislation would lead to the eventual destruction of astronomy on Mauna Kea.
     
    “The loss of these world-class facilities would be a deep loss for the state and for all astronomy in the USA and worldwide,” said Richard Griffiths, affiliate professor of physics and astronomy at University of Hawaii Hilo.
     
    In addition to those who testified against the bill, 133 people submitted written testimony in opposition versus only 20 in support.
     
    The committee delayed decision-making until noon today.
     
    House Bill 2024 would replace UH and form a new, independent entity to oversee the Mauna Kea observatories and the surrounding land following a three-year transition period.
     
    The new governing board, with Native Hawaiian representation, would be tasked with developing a plan for managing land uses, human activities, access, stewardship and overall operations on the mountain, among other things.
     
    But several testified Tuesday that the timeline is too short to stand up a new authority and secure new observatory subleases before triggering a decommissioning process prior to the expiration of the current master lease in 2033.
     
    “Because of this we fear that Hawaii’s astronomy industry will be lost if HB 2024 turns into law,” said Wendy Laros, president and CEO of the Kona- Kohala Chamber of Commerce.
     
    Greg Chun of the UH Hilo Center for Maunakea Stewardship told lawmakers that, if passed, the bill would threaten one of the state’s most successful global achievements.
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