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2007 report warned about risks of Mauna Kea telescope


HONOLULU (AP) - A 2007 report warned about the risks involved in developing a giant telescope on Mauna Kea.

The report by a Colorado firm hired to evaluate the risks warned that building the Thirty Meter Telescope would come with stiff resistance from Native Hawaiians, lawsuits and regulatory hurdles.

While the report didn’t predict a new generation of Hawaiians taking the opposition to a new level, it gives some insight into what’s happening now, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser newspaper reported Monday ( ).

The $1.4 billion project remains at a construction standstill after protesters began blocking construction vehicles. Opponents say the telescope will desecrate sacred land.

The 19-page Keystone Center report was commissioned by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, which is funding the telescope. It concluded there would be no fast track to bringing the telescope to Mauna Kea. It didn’t offer any recommendations on whether the telescope should be built.

“Should TMT decide to pursue a Mauna Kea site, it will inherit the anger, fear and great mistrust generated through previous telescope planning and siting failures and an accumulated disbelief that any additional projects, especially a physically imposing one like the TMT, can be done properly,” the report said.

Despite the document, the Moore Foundation committed $200 million toward construction. It had already donated $50 million during the design phase.

“Potential funders and supporters of the project must be prepared to be extremely patient and pay a premium in social, political and legal transaction costs,” the report said.

Most of the objections were not to science, but to the way science had been conducted on the mountain, the report said. It noted a history of poor or no consultations with Hawaiians.

“The report informed many of the decisions we made and the steps we took during the planning and approval process,” Michael Bolte, an astronomy professor at the University of California at Santa Cruz and a board member with the TMT Observatory International LLC, said in an email.


Information from: Honolulu Star-Advertiser,

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