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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Friday, November 29, 2002

Issues for telescope hearing reviewed

Associated Press

HILO, Hawai'i — A hearings officer has ruled which issues can be raised — but stopped short of saying which cannot — during proceedings on a divisive plan for a telescope project atop Mauna Kea.

The proposed addition of up to six telescopes to the W.M. Keck Observatory at Mauna Kea has drawn criticism from some environmental and Hawaiian cultural groups.

The ruling by Michael W. Gibson, a Honolulu attorney appointed to oversee the contested case hearing, grants some requests made by the University of Hawai'i and some made by opponents of the project regarding the hearing's scope. The contested case hearing is scheduled to begin Feb. 10.

The university manages astronomy activities on Mauna Kea's summit. Last month, UH officials asked Gibson to exclude various types of evidence, including questions about the master plan adopted in 2000. That plan for Mauna Kea astronomy development was critical of the state's handling of summit activities and environmental studies.

Gibson's ruling did not resolve questions about specific kinds of evidence that can be introduced, saying that would be addressed during the hearing itself.

Nelson Ho of the Sierra Club said his group was satisfied with the ruling and is looking forward to arguing its case during the hearing.

Kari Wilhelm, one of five attorneys representing the university, said this week that the ruling defines the issues "a little more precisely" but had no further comment.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration has proposed financing the $50 million project to construct up to six "outrigger" telescopes around the perimeter of the twin Keck observatory.

The addition of the 6-foot dishes would boost the observatory's light-gathering capability.