East Hawaii News

Land Board Hears Final Arguments on Huge Telescope

February 12, 2013, 5:49 PM HST
* Updated February 12, 5:50 PM
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The state Board of Land and Natural Resources met today in Hilo to hear final arguments on the establishment of the Thirty Meter Telescope atop Mauna Kea.

In early 2011, the appointed panel approved a conservation district use permit for the instrument, but that ruling was contested by opponents of the project.

Following a quasi-judicial contested case hearing, a recommendation was made on Nov. 30 that the project be allowed to move forward.

Both supporters and opponents of the telescope made their final pitches today in a meeting held at the County Council chambers.

Those in favor of the project tout its potential for scientific achievement as well as the boost the $1 billion project would give to the Big Island economy.

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Opponents say there are already enough telescopes on the mountain and express concerns about the impacts the “TMT,” as it is known, would have on the environment, including the endangered wekiu bug.

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The meeting was attended by several hundred people, including supporters wearing buttons saying “TMT YES!”

Opponents included environmentalists and native Hawaiians.

An overflow crowd at today's meeting included students from Kanu o ka 'Aina charter school in Waimea. Photo by Dave Smith.

An overflow crowd at today’s meeting included students from Kanu o ka ‘Aina charter school in Waimea. Photo by Dave Smith.

Those in attendance included several dozen students from the Kanu o ka ‘Aina charter school in Waimea wearing kihei or shawls.

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The spectators filled the council chambers, including many of the walkways, and spilled out into the hallway outside.

It is not known when the land board will issue its final decision.

The telescope would be the largest telescope on earth, three times the size of either of the twin Keck telescopes currently atop Mauna Kea.

However, an even larger telescope, the European Extremely Large Telescope, is being planned for Chile. The telescope proposed by the European Southern Observatory would have a mirror measuring 39 meters, or 128 feet.

However, funding for the $1.4 billion telescope remains an issue for some of the 14 ESO member nations.

Chile is already home to ESO’s Very Large Telescope which consists of four telescopes, each with a mirror measuring 8.2 meters in diameter.

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