Astronomy

Mauna Kea Management Authority Bill Passes Conference Committee

April 29, 2022, 7:28 PM HST
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After careful deliberation, State and House negotiators voted Friday, April 29, to approve a measure that transitions management of Mauna Kea from the University of Hawai‘i to the Mauna a Wākea stewardship authority.

HB2024 CD1 accounts for amendments that the Senate Higher Education/Ways and Means Committee proposed in early April.

The House’s original version would have established the Mauna a Wākea stewardship authority as the sole authority for management of state-managed lands on Mauna a Wākea. In the Senate’s version of the measure, the interests and concerns of the Native Hawaiian community along with UH is accounted for.

“This has been a challenging, but incredibly important process that we wanted to undertake,” said Sen. Donna Mercado Kim, chair of the Senate Committee on Higher Education. “Mauna Kea has a profound significance to both culture and science, and we wanted to ensure that we respect both sides in our efforts to preserve and protect the Mauna.”

Key points from Conference Draft 1 are as follows:

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An 11-member Authority will be appointed by Gov. David Ige and confirmed by Senate. Members of the board include DNLR, UH Board of Regents, Hawaii Island Mayors, observatories’ representative, five citizens (land management, education, business/finance, lineal descendant practitioner, cultural practitioner), two citizens (from list submitted by Senate President and Speaker of the House; UH Hilo Chancellor non-voting ex-officio). The Chair is appointed by the governor from members.

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There will be a transition of five years from UH to the new authority. During that time, the measure indicates the university will handle day-to-day management. The authority will stand up, plan for the future and establish processes and rules.

The transition period can be shortened if agreed to by UH and the authority.

The authority will report to the Legislature. There will be a moratorium on any new lease or renewal of leases on the mauna.

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The draft also recommends the creation of a Mauna Kea Reserve. The authority may enter into any work intended to prepare for the post-transition period.

In the post-transition period, the authority will assume power and responsibilities of DLNR and LUC over the lands in the Mauna Kea Reserve as well as take over day-to-day management.

UH is released from legal obligations, except for any previous lawsuits.

The master lease on the mountain will remain in effect until end of term term in 2033, along with subleases.

According to the new draft, the authority will make policies about land use and land management during transition period. New lease(s) may be acted upon in post-transition period.

Supporting astronomy consistent with the mutual stewardship of Mauna Kea is a state priority. According to the latest amendments to the measure, reuse of decommissioned sites are to be prioritized for any new facilities over undeveloped lands.

Viewing time for University of Hawaiʻi to be negotiated in going forward leases. Priority is to be given for viewing time projects that involves students, including Hawaiian language students.

The bill also requires the development, negotiation and execution of agreements that promote astronomy to include education, training, employment opportunities for local residents. Additionally, $350,000 will go to ʻImiloa Astronomy Center for astronomy-related education programs (K-12 public).

 

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