If you’ve always wanted to live and work in a tropical paradise, there’s a big project about to begin in Hawaii. The Hawaii Supreme Court recently approved a construction permit for a $1.4 billion observatory to be built on Mauna Kea, a dormant volcano on the Big Island. In the past, native Hawaiians have argued against allowing anyone to build anything on that location because it’s a sacred site.
Hawaii’s TMT International Observatory
The Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) International Observatory has been a troubled project from the start. In 2015, a lower court approved a permit for the observatory and work began. But local Hawaiians staged a massive protest that went on for more than a year. They stayed on Mauna Kea for over a year, physically blocking construction workers from doing their jobs.
Finally, in March 2017, the board approved and re-issued the building permit so the project could move forward. This initiated another prolonged legal battle and that’s when the issue was moved to Hawaii’s Supreme Court. Though the permit has been approved now, there are “requirements” that must be met before workers can begin construction.
Opponents of the project have vowed to do whatever it takes to prevent construction from going forward. However, scientists and astronomers say that the observatory will be able to provide incredible information that will benefit mankind.
Can Protesters Win This Battle?
One of the leaders of those against the telescope project, Kealoha Pisciotta, stated that she is not sure what protesters should do next.
“The court is the last bastion in democracy,” she said. “The only other option is to take to the streets. If we lose the integrity of the court, then you’re losing normal law and order, and the only other option is people have to rise up.”
A spokesman for the TMT International Observatory Board of Governors said they are grateful for the ruling and eager to begin construction on the dormant volcano. Governor, David Ige, vowed to protect the rights of both builders and protesters, saying, “The court’s decision will allow Hawaii to continue to lead the world in astronomy.”
About Mauna Kea
Mauna Kea is one of only a few places on our planet where you can drive from sea level to 14,000 feet in only two hours. Naturally, many visitors to the area do suffer from altitude sickness and area officials do not recommend that those in poor health make the journey.
There are several Visitor Information Stations in the area that provide instructions to tourists. For instance, off-road travel is prohibited and pregnant women are not allowed to travel beyond the Visitor Information Station. Anyone with a heart or respiratory condition is also prohibited from traveling past the VIS. Many car rental companies will not allow you to take their vehicles into the area at all. If your auto becomes stalled, it must be removed within a certain length of time or you could be fined.
With all these restrictions in place, it is difficult to see how an entire construction crew could come into the area each day and do their work without violating an Ordinance. It remains to be seen how the project will play out and whether the work will be able to move forward this time.
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