Categorized | Sci-Tech

Update on Thirty Meter Telescope’s final EIS, permit

By Sandra Dawson, Task Leader for TMT Site Master Planning

TMT Final EIS Process

The almost two-year-long TMT Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) process is nearing conclusion. The FEIS is in its final stage of internal approval. It will be sent to the Mauna Kea Management Board for approval in early April and then forwarded to Gov. Linda Lingle for review and approval.

Assuming Lingle approves it, a notice will be published in the Office of Environmental Quality Control’s bulletin, which makes the FEIS’ approval official. This starts a 60-day challenge period. It is during this period that an individual or group could go to court to challenge the FEIS.

The three-volume document is very comprehensive and covers all aspects of the design of TMT and the construction and operations of the observatory on Mauna Kea. It also covers the proposed TMT headquarters in Hilo, and all aspects of moving our equipment and people between Hilo and Mauna Kea. The EISs will be distributed in electronic format (primarily on CD), saving extensive printing and shipping costs.

A significant portion of the FEIS is Volume 2, which is more than 500 pages long and includes all the Draft EIS comments as well as responses to each comment or question. There were more than 300 comments, sent via USPS, email, or recorded or deposited during the seven TMT Draft EIS public meetings.

More than 100 people spoke at the public meetings, and the public comments were fairly evenly divided between proponents and opponents of the project. Based on past public hearings on Hawaii Island, this indicates a very high level of support among the local island community and the state.

TMT Conservation District Use Permit Process

While the FEIS is being finalized, a required parallel process has also been moving forward. TMT will require a Conservation District Use Permit (CDUP) from the Department of Land and Natural Resources in order to build on Mauna Kea.

The first step in this process is approval of details of the project design by a Mauna Kea Management Board (MKMB) Design Review Team, by the Kahu Ku Mauna Council, and by the Mauna Kea Management Board. The MKMB is scheduled to vote on approval of the project during its April 21 meeting.

Assuming MKMB approves the project, the plans will then be forwarded to the University of Hawaii at Hilo chancellor, the University of Hawaii president, then to the UH Board of Regents for approval. If the Board of Regents approves the project, the University of Hawaii will apply for a CDUP.

The CDUP process will most likely be held before a hearing officer, and will provide an opportunity for those interested in the project to present arguments for and against the granting of the CDUP.

We expect that the CDUP will be granted in early 2011.

— Find out more:
Thirty Meter Telescope: www.tmt.org

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