Groups seek hearing on telescope plan
By Hugh Clark
Advertiser Big Island Bureau
HILO, Hawai'i Native Hawaiian groups, saying astronomy atop Mauna Kea has gone far enough, last night continued their demands for a contested-case hearing on plans to expand the twin telescopes of the Keck Observatory.
At issue are four extensions known as "outrigger telescopes" to expand the power of the Keck telescopes, built in 1984 and 1992. Two other outriggers might be added later.
As they did Wednesday night in Kona, Hawaiians pressed the state Board of Land and Natural Resources for a court-like hearing in their effort to delay or block the project.
Many asked for a more complete environmental impact statement instead of the existing environmental assessment.
"Stop the bulldozers from further desecration of this sacred mountain," urged a joint statement of KAHEA, a Hawaiian environmental alliance, seeking denial of the conservation use permit by the University of Hawai'i Institute for Astronomy.
Some critics, such as Paul Neves of the Royal Order of Kamehameha I, said the University of Hawai'i has failed to hear the "overwhelming testimony to stop development" on the mountain.
The hearing drew more than 100 people to the Hawai'i County Council Room and another 55 crowded outside.
Not everyone opposed the request.
Hilo architect Russell Oda, noting he is a third-generation Big Islander, said he wants future generations to benefit from the astronomy research.
He described it as healthy industry that, along with marine and geological sciences, is helping establish the island as a "premier world science center."
Astronomy activities already employ 500 people and produce $60 million in annual spending, Oda said.
Pablo McLoud of Ahualoa said that while he empathizes with some of the opposing views, he believes the Big Island should not pass on the opportunity to answer two basic questions:
"Who we are and are we alone?"
The additions to the telescopes would add another $45 million of worth of facilities on Hawai'i's tallest mountain, which now supports 13 observatories.