Maunakea Observatories Deny Striking Deal for Access

July 29, 2019, 1:00 PM HST (Updated July 29, 2019, 1:00 PM)
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TMT protest, July 15, 2019. PC: Gerald Besson

Maunakea Observatories issued a press release Monday, July 29, 2019, denying they have struck a deal with activists for ongoing access to telescope facilities, regardless of any recent reports to the contrary.

Maunakea Observatories’ directors made a joint decision to remove all remaining personnel from Maunakea on Tuesday, July 16, Deputy Director of the East Asian Observatory Jessica Dempsey explained.

There has been no consistent staff presence at the telescope facilities to provide the kind of regular maintenance required by the complex systems and delicate instrumentation functioning there, she continued.

“We continue to closely monitor the health of our telescopes remotely from our base facilities,” Dempsey said. “As issues that are critically time-sensitive are identified for technology that is at risk of significant damage, the Observatories notify law enforcement and the Office of Maunakea Management. If law enforcement tells the Observatories that our staff will not be blocked from entering and exiting the Maunakea Access Road, the Observatory directors carefully assess the situation and, if the safety risk is determined to be low, send a small crew of the smallest number of technicians needed to successfully complete the work required.”

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These efforts are urgent technical work required to prevent irreversible damage to the telescopes and instruments, Dempsey continued. With the current level of access, the Observatories are still unable to resume operations.

For regular operations, observatories need safe, consistent access to facilities for not only technicians, but all of the staff—and local contractors and vendors—in order to keep facilities functional.

The Maunakea Observatories continue to support the efforts of state and county law enforcement to restore safe and reliable conditions on the Maunakea Access Road.

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