Public support for safe access to Maunakea
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July 9, 2015

Aloha <<First Name>>

The state Board of Land and Natural Resources will meet at 9 a.m. tomorrow to discuss rule changes that would allow public access to resume on Maunakea. The hearing will be held in downtown Honolulu at 1151 Punchbowl Street, Kalanimoku Building, Land Board Conference Room 132. That portion of the meeting agenda is scheduled for discussion at 1 p.m.

Two newspaper opinion pieces have already been published this week regarding the TMT project. The Honolulu Star-Advertiser editorial which ran this morning supports the state's actions in providing safe public access to Maunakea. An opinion piece submitted to the West Hawaii Today by Waimea resident Matt Binder helps dispel some myths and misinformation about the project:


Take action to restore control over Mauna Kea
POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Jul 9, 2015

Protesters assembled on the slope of Mauna Kea on Hawaii island to block construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope.

Finally, the state seems poised to take some action, albeit only a temporary restriction, to assert some needed controls over the summit zone of Mauna Kea. This could represent a pivot point if the pause can become an opportunity to restore more than a road. The state needs to rebuild a sense of order between the opposing interests, or the standoff will never end.

At the heart of the conflict is the development of the Thirty Meter Telescope, a state-of-the-art facility that proponents assert will put Hawaii at the forefront of astronomical exploration and opponents fear would be a blight on the landscape.

One step in the right direction was taken Tuesday, with University of Hawaii officials pledging more concrete plans to dismantle the first telescope erected on the mountain. That should be welcomed by those interested in environmental restoration at the summit, who must insist that the state continue to meet its commitment to retiring telescopes that are well past their peak performance years.

More significantly this week, the state Department of Land and Natural Resources is seeking to hit the pause button. DLNR officials point to environmental threats posed by protesters camping on the mountain and damage to the access road caused by stone barriers erected by TMT opponents.

As a result, they have proposed an access restriction, which the land board should approve when it convenes on Friday. This would bolster Gov. David Ige’s less than full-throated defense of the proposed Thirty Meter Telescope project, which has been at the heart of the dispute with protesters for months.

As it’s now proposed by DLNR officials, the emergency rule would:

» Allow overnight access only to those traveling in a vehicle on Mauna Kea Access Road; all others would be restricted between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m. The restricted area includes a public hunting area and forest reserve and extends below the visitor center.

» Prohibit camping gear, such as backpacks, tents, blankets and tarps at all hours in the restricted zone.

Opponents of the telescope project are mainly Native Hawaiians who protest that the construction would desecrate a site revered for its rank within traditional Hawaiian cultural and religious contexts. The activists, who describe themselves as Mauna Kea’s “protectors,” say they are the targets of a discriminatory crackdown, because those associated with the existing telescopes will be allowed overnight access.

In fact, the emergency rule would affect the entire public, including visits by school groups and others. While the temporary loss of public access is unfortunate, an abundance of caution seems to make it necessary. And while some of the protesters say there’s no proof of damage, those who advocate for the preservation of a special environment shouldn’t object to that precautionary step.

It’s been a turbulent clash of values on the mountaintop over the course of several years, as the proposed TMT project wended its way through a seven-year process that resulted in building approval. Legal challenges of that process, though, as well as of the current proposed access restriction, have not been settled. The courts have upheld the Native Hawaiian rights of access to lands and resources. In this case, the court’s decision on the validity of the state’s review of the project could have far-reaching effects on future projects. It would be helpful if the court clarifies where the limits of Native Hawaiian claims may lie.

But meanwhile the state should exercise its custody of the summit zone, and modest restrictions should be part of that.

The protesters have been arrested in recent weeks and have made a plea for ho‘oponopono, the indigenous form of mediation, to be substituted for criminal prosecution in those cases. On the whole, that sounds like a reasonable request for people whose heartfelt act of nonviolent protest should not tarnish their record.

But ho‘oponopono works both ways. It’s time the protesters recognize that and be willing to work toward compromise.
TMT: the myths and reality

Published July 8, 2015 - 12:05am
Matt Binder | Viewpoint

The letters and viewpoint articles by opponents of the Thirty Meter Telescope often denounce the project in ways that don’t make sense. They say the TMT is a profit-making development, or that it is part of an obsession with progress. But the TMT is not about progress or development — it is about knowledge. The fact that they do not value the knowledge the TMT will bring says a lot about the protesters.

Subjective characterizations are one thing, but facts are something all people should be able to agree on. The fact that the Hawaiian government was illegally overthrown with the help of the U.S. military in 1893 is not debatable — it is a fact that was acknowledged by Congress and President Bill Clinton in the 1993 Apology Resolution.

But while some proponents of the TMT would like to ignore the illegal overthrow as old news, the TMT protesters themselves are ignoring facts and promoting lies. I have now counted seven easily verifiable lies that are being told by TMT protesters in their attempts to sway public opinion.

1. The aquifer is threatened. This is the “Big Lie” that I see repeated over and over again. The fact is that the TMT will be a zero waste facility. Pushing this lie shows how unprincipled the opponents can be.

2. The telescopes threaten the wekiu bug. Entomologists have studied this issue extensively and say that the telescopes have had no effect on the numbers or distribution of the wekiu bug. This should not be a surprise since Mauna Kea is massive and the telescopes occupy only a tiny portion of it.

3. Lake Waiau is being destroyed by the telescopes. Again, scientists have investigated this and found that Lake Waiau has natural fluctuations based solely on precipitation and have nothing to do with the telescopes.

4. Building is not allowed in Conservation Districts. Building is allowed in conservation districts as long as it does not “cause substantial, significant, and adverse impacts on existing natural resources.”

5. There will be a 5,000-gallon mercury tank at the TMT site. This seems to be a misreading of the environmental report showing the installation of a 5,000-gallon water tank. In fact, the TMT will use no mercury whatsoever.

6. The TMT will be an eyesore for the whole island. The TMT site is about 600 feet below the summit on the north side of the mountain and will not be prominent except in the South Kohala area.

7. The TMT is a profit-making venture that is not giving enough to our community. The $1.4 billion investment by penny-pinching governments and universities to acquire some photographs of the sky make this claim laughable. In addition, the TMT will pay $1 million per year in rent and will give another million dollars per year in scholarships and other community benefits with preferences for people of Hawaiian ancestry.

These lies show that the protesters understand that their only remaining argument — that the mountain is sacred — is not enough to get widespread public support for their cause. But by using these untruths the protesters undermine their credibility and lose public support in the long run. I wish Hawaiians good luck in winning back sovereignty. However, I don’t think they are helping their cause by lying, or by opposing worthy projects like the telescopes on Mauna Kea and Haleakala.

Matt Binder is a resident of Waimea.
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