Ka Wai Ola

Rowena Akana, Trustee At-Large‘Ano‘ai kakou… An excellent video was recently released explaining the state’s failure to fulfill its trust obligations to Mauna Kea. The six-minute video, “Fifty Years of Mismanaging Mauna Kea,” was uploaded to VIMEO (Link: vimeo.com/247038723) on December 12 by Kanaeokana, a network of ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i, Hawaiian culture, and ‘āinā based schools. Here are some quick highlights:

  • 1964 – Mauna Kea is identified by UH as an exceptional site for astronomical observation.
  • 1968 – UH signs a 65-year general lease from BLNR for 13,321 acres of ceded lands at the summit. BLNR can terminate the lease if the lease terms are not met, including care for the mauna. A permit for “an observatory” was granted but numerous telescopes are built. BLNR later issues “after the fact” permits.
  • 1974 – Governor George Ariyoshi, concerned that the activities on the mountain threaten its “priceless qualities,” directs DLNR to make a Master Plan for the mauna. DLNR and UH draft 10 different plans, but the speed of development on Mauna Kea makes some of them obsolete before they are completed.
  • 1975 – The Audubon Society resists installation of the 15-meter sub-millimeter antenna.
  • 1995 – UH cleans up trash accumulating on the summit only after the Sierra Club files a complaint.
  • 1998 – The State Auditor releases a scathing report documenting 30 years of mismanagement of Mauna Kea by both the BLNR and UH and reveals that, despite spending $50 million per year on telescope operations, no observatory paid more than $1 a year rent.
  • 1999 – Despite the audit, they build two more telescopes.
  • 2004 – Subpoenaed documents reveal sewage, ethylene glycol, diesel fuel, and toxic mercury were spilled on the mauna.
  • 2005 – A follow-up audit finds UH’s management “still falls short.” A NASA environmental study concludes 35 years of astronomy activity has caused “significant, substantial and adverse” harm.
  • 2007 – Third Circuit Court revokes NASA’s permit for an observatory project because the state lacks a comprehensive management plan for the mauna.
  • 2010 – UH’s new Comprehensive Management Plan includes a “Decommissioning Plan” for removing observatories and restoring the site. To date, only one of 13 existing observatories has started the process. A UH environmental study concludes astronomy activities have caused “substantial and adverse” impacts to the mauna’s natural and cultural resources.
  • 2011 – The Subaru Observatory spills 100 liters of orange coolant.
  • 2013 – BLNR hears UH’s request for a new 65-year general lease, to expire in 2078. UH’s undergraduate governing body, representing 14,000 students, passes a resolution opposing a new lease.
  • 2014 – Another follow-up audit finds UH failed to adopt a single rule to manage public activities on the mountain.
  • 2015 – Governor David Ige temporarily stops construction on Mauna Kea after 300 mauna protectors peacefully block roads to the proposed TMT site and 31 are arrested. A petition with 53,000 signatures calling for a halt to the TMT and the arrests of protectors is delivered to Ige. UH’s President admits “[UH] has not met all of [its] obligations to the mountain or the expectations of the community.”
  • 2017 – Another audit finds none of the 8 recommendations in the 2014 audit had been completely implemented. UH and DLNR have also failed to adequately implement 32 of 54 management actions that concern Native Hawaiians.

If you think Mauna Kea deserves better care, help spread the word by sharing Kanaeokana’s video.

Check out the video at: vimeo.com/247038723

Your comments are welcome so please email my office at rowenaa@oha.org. Hopefully, we can finally get the state to turn over stewardship of Mauna Kea to OHA.

Aloha Ke Akua.


Interested in Hawaiian issues & OHA? Please visit my website at www.rowenaakana.org for more information or e-mail me at rowenaa@oha.org.