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UH Hilo Seeks Public Input on Decommissioning of Telescope

June 18, 2020, 6:01 AM HST
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Hōkū Keʻa Telescope on Maunakea will be decommissioned. PC: UH Hilo

The University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo is seeking public input on the decommissioning of the Hōkū Keʻa telescope on the summit of Maunakea.

The feedback will be used to develop a draft Environmental Assessment (EA) and a Site Decommissioning Plan (SDP) required by the Maunakea Comprehensive Management Plan for UH-managed lands. Decommissioning includes the deconstruction and removal of the telescope facility and the restoration of the site.

The draft EA process requires that the public consider alternatives, a total of four in this case:

  • No Action, or abandon in place
  • Removal of all buildings and abandon in place foundations and utilities below existing grade
  • Removal of all buildings and foundations, partial removal of utilities
  • Complete removal of all buildings, foundations, and utilities

SSFM International Inc. has been retained, prepared the enclosed pre-assessment consultation letter  (PDF) to develop the draft EA and SDP, and are asking the public to submit written comments by July 17. Comments can be submitted via email to [email protected] or by traditional mail addressed to SSFM International, Inc., Attn: Jennifer Scheffel at 99 Aupuni Street, Suite 202, Hilo, Hawaiʻi 96720.

There will be other opportunities for public feedback during the extensive decommissioning process.

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The Maunakea Management Board approved UH Hilo’s Notice of Intent to decommission Hōkū Keʻa on February 18, 2020, with the condition that the university simultaneously proceed with the planning and permitting for a new educational telescope for UH Hilo students and the Hawaiʻi Island community. Planning and permitting for a new educational telescope is a separate process that will also include identifying a location.

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Hōkū Keʻa is one of the first two telescopes set to be decommissioned on UH-managed Maunakea lands. The decommissioning of Hōkū Keʻa is anticipated to be completed in mid-to-late 2023.

The decommissioning of the second Maunakea telescope, California Institute of Technology Submillimeter Observatory (CSO), is tentatively scheduled to begin in 2021 and the restoration of the site to be completed by mid-to-late 2022. CSO is currently drafting its site decommissioning plan.

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