Officials green-light massive telescope on sacred Hawaiian mountain

HONOLULU — Hawaii’s land board on Thursday granted a construction permit for a giant telescope on a mountain that Native Hawaiians consider sacred, a project that divided the state.

In a statement, the board announced that they voted 5-2 to approve the recommendation of retired judge Riki May Amano to allow construction to move forward, CBS affiliate KGMB-TV reports.

“This was one of the most difficult decisions this Board has ever made,” chairperson Suzanne Case said in the statement. “The members greatly respected and considered the concerns raised by those opposed to the construction of the Thirty-Meter Telescope at the Mauna Kea Science Reserve.”

The $1.4 billion Thirty Meter Telescope pitted people who say the instrument will provide educational and economic opportunities against those who say it will desecrate the state’s tallest mountain, called Mauna Kea.

Plans for what would be one of the world’s largest telescopes date to 2009, when scientists selected Mauna Kea after a five-year around-the-world campaign to find the ideal site for what telescope officials say “will likely revolutionize our understanding of the universe.”

The project won a series of approvals from Hawaii, including a permit to build on conservation land in 2011. Protesters blocked attempts to start construction. Then in 2015, the state Supreme Court invalidated the permit and ordered the project to undergo the process all over again.

Pursuing the telescope took more than 10 years, Douglas Ing, an attorney representing the telescope project, told the land board during final arguments on Sept. 20. “Enormous resources” were spent and community meetings were held, he said.

“It wanted to become part of this community,” Ing said. “It learned the values of this community.”

Paul Neves, a master hula teacher and opponent, said the nonprofit building the telescope is made up of outsiders and that there was too much development on Mauna Kea, where there are 13 telescopes.

“You failed up there,” he told…

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