East Hawaii News

State to Enforce Current Laws, Regulations on Mauna Kea

June 30, 2015, 1:09 PM HST
* Updated June 30, 1:15 PM
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Governor David Ige’s veto meeting on Monday didn’t end without an opportunity to discuss the current happenings on Mauna Kea.

Amid deep controversy over the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope, Governor Ige answered media questions regarding various aspects of the situation.

Among the questions was the timeline and circumstances revolving around access to Mauna Kea through the access road.

“We are working with the University and all the agencies involved to create a plan that would assure that we could keep access safe for all of the workers, visitors, and the people who work on the other telescopes on Mauna Kea,” Governor Ige said. “We look to enforce existing rules, regulations, and laws and then look at the authority that we have to secure the mountain top and assure access, so that is what we are focused on.”

Governor Ige, who expressed disappointment in a statement last Friday following the “forced” closure of the Mauna Kea access road by the Office of Mauna Kea Management, emphasized Monday that safely was of his utmost concern.

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“We are going to be looking at the actions we need to take to assure that the public and the workers can access the facilities – the existing facilities – as well as those workers that would be involved in the project,” the governor said. “We intend to enforce those laws as they exist today. Even those laws, rules, and regulations regarding camping…we intend to enforce them equally among everyone.”

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He went on further to discuss the obligation of the state to maintain proper access to facilities, stating that it is the State of Hawai’i’s duty and obligation to the public to maintain the access.

“We are being smart about what that means and trying to be comprehensive in planning, what changes would need to be done to assure safe access.

“We are concerned because of the safety aspects. You know the boulders and rocks and walls built on the road obviously provide a hazard to the general public as well as those existing employees working on the mountain, as well as those who may be involved with the TMT project. We are working to ensure the safety of all of those people, to ensure they can have access to their work place so they can continue. As I said before, TMT does have the permits and the right to proceed, so we are working to assure that they have access to exercise those rights.”

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Governor Ige said during the meeting that the state does not plan to use National Guard enforcement.

The announcement of continued construction, after over two months of halted activity came on Saturday, June 20. Construction was set to resume on Wednesday, June 24, but protesters who call themselves “protectors of the mountain” blocked the roadways, moved boulders, and built walls and structures. Ultimately, 13 people were arrested by the Hawai’i Police Department and Department of Land and Natural Resources officers. TMT crews were forced to turn around at about mid-day, never reaching the summit.

Since then, state officials and project coordinators have remained mum about future plans, closing the main access roadway and visitor’s center and halting construction yet again.

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