Published : Friday, April 13, 2018 | 8:39 AM
At its meeting this week, the TMT International Observatory (TIO) Board of Governors deferred a decision on whether to continue building a controversial Thirty Meter Telescope in Hawaii or to consider a Canary Islands alternative.
As further progress is made in the legal and regulatory processes at both proposed sites, Ed Stone, Executive Director of the TMT International Observatory (TIO) said the group would continue to “assess the ongoing situation.”
The environmental and permitting process required to build at the La Palma site in the Canary Islands continues. The environmental impact assessment for the project has been submitted to the relevant authorities, and once it is accepted, applications will be presented for permits and clearances to build.
“While Maunakea remains our preferred choice,” Stone said, “we continue to work closely with planning officials at our alternative site in the Canary Islands.”
In September 2017, Hawaii’s Board of Land and Natural Resources approved a Conservation District Use Permit to allow construction of the controversial Thirty Meter Telescope, headquartered in Pasadena, on Mauna Kea Mountain in Hawaii.
The Board voted 5-2 in favor of granting the permit following almost five months of hearings that began in October 2016. After the hearings terminated in March, contested case Hearings Officer and former Judge Riki May Amano released a 305-page report recommending issuance of the permit.
Groups opposed to the Thirty Meter Telescope project have held at least two large protests in Pasadena, which coincided with protests in Hawaii.
Henry Yang, Chairman of the Pasadena-based Thirty Meter Telescope International Observatory Board, thanked the Hawaii Land and Natural Resources Board and other officials involved in the process that started after the Hawaii Supreme Court invalidated the Telescope’s first construction permit in December 2015.
The project, estimated to cost about $1.4 billion, is the result of partnerships among Caltech in Pasadena, India’s Department of Science and Technology, China’s National Astronomical Observatories, the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan, Canada’s National Research Council and the University of California.
Fabrication of the Thirty Meter Telescope’s infrastructure and components continues offsite by the participating partners in the project.
Once completed, the Thirty Meter Telescope will provide vivid, cutting-edge images of everything from exo-planets to distant galaxies.
When construction started in 2014, native Hawaiians and other opponents of the project blocked the road to the project site and filed a case with Hawaii’s court system to stop it.