TMT Construction Halt Continues

June 26, 2015, 5:42 PM HST (Updated June 26, 2015, 5:51 PM)
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For the third straight day, Thirty Meter Telescope construction crews were on hold Friday after access to the TMT construction site was blocked by protesters of the controversial project.

Governor David Ige Friday once again committed to ensuring that the TMT project would be able to resume, saying that he is working on coming up with a solution that preserves the safety of everyone involved.

“We expect there to be more types of challenges, good and bad days, and we are in this for the long run. We value TMT and the contributions of science and technology to our society, and we continue our support of the project’s right to proceed,” the governor explained. “We are currently working to find ways to enable the TMT project to proceed safely without putting workers, protestors and the general public at risk.”

Construction was intially placed on hold April 7 after protests led to 31 arrests five days prior. The halt was extended on April 11 and was placed on hold once more on April 17.  Last Saturday, TMT Board Chair Henry Yang announced that TMT would resume construction on Wednesday, following a pause of more than two months.

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Visible opposition to the project was expected. On Wednesday, hundreds of protesters gathered on Mauna Kea, blocking access to TMT crews and Department of Land and Natural Resources officers. Also blocking the roadway were rocks and boulders that prevented vehicle access up the mountain.

As a result, twelve people were arrested, one on the Hawai’i County portion of Mauna Kea Access Road and the other 11 by DLNR officers on the state portion of the roadway. HPD arrested 44-year-old Ulises Consuegra. The additional 11 were identified as Samuel Kaleikoa, 49; Andre Perez, 44; Chase Kanuha, 26; Hualalai Keohuloa, 35; Kawika Hassard, 36; Joseph Alapai, 54; Lori Parizal, 45; Gene Tamashiro, 58; Michel Prevost, 60; Kaapunialiionalanikiekie Aiwohi, 25; and Michalann Trainer, 44.

All 12 posted $250 bail and were released from police custody. Many returned to the mountain.

Following Wednesday’s events, TMT announced that they had pulled their crews from the mountain and would not resume work until the conflict was resolved.

“We made the decision to bring them [TMT crews] off the mountain and we are planning to resume when the issue is resolved,” Yang said in a statement.

The Governor’s office also responded to the situation, expressing safety concerns raised by the deliberate placement of the rocks and boulders. “We are disappointed and concerned that large boulders were found in the roadway leading to the summit of Mauna Kea. This action is a serious and significant safety hazard and could put people at risk,” said Mike McCartney, Governor Ige’s Chief of Staff.

Volunteers worked with Office of Mauna Kea Management crews to remove the rocks and boulders from the road Thursday, Governor Ige confirmed after returning from a forum in Washington, D.C. 

Along with his statement Friday, Governor Ige spoke on the topic at a meeting of the Maui Chamber of Commerce. He not only addressed the controversial events on Mauna Kea, but also spoke on a similar situation currently happening atop Haleakala.

“We are committed to ensure both projects that they can proceed as they are approved to do,” Governor Ige said at the meeting. “It’s just a matter of working out the specific details.”

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