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Lingle accepts TMT final environmental impact statement

Karin Stanton | Hawaii 24/7 Contributing Editor

The Thirty Meter Telescope cleared another hurdle late this week, when Gov. Linda Lingle accepted the final environmental statement for the $1 billion project.

The full document was released Friday via the Environmental Notice, which informs the public of environmental assessments and other documents that are available for review and comment. The notice is updated on the 8th and 23rd of each month on the Office of Environmental Quality Control’s website.

The report acknowledges the differing opinions that have been voiced during the EIS process – that science and culture can co-exist on Mauna Kea and that the development would have a significant adverse impact.

Site access procedures and protocols still need to be hammered out before TMT and the University of Hawaii, which has management oversight of the area atop Mauna Kea, sign a sublease.

Construction is slated to begin in 2011 and take seven years to complete.

From the Environmental Notice dated May 8:

Thirty Meter Telescope Observatory (Final Environmental Impact Statement)
Island: Hawaii
District: Hamakua and South Hilo
TMK: Hamakua: 4-4-15:9 (por), 15 (por), and 1 (por); South Hilo: 2-3-1:7 (por) or 2-4-1:41 (por)
Proposing Agency: University of Hawaii at Hilo, Office of the Chancellor, 200 W. Kawili Street, Hilo, HI 96720- 4091. 974-7311
Accepting Authority: Governor, (808) 586-0034
Consultant: Parsons Brinckerhoff, 1001 Bishop Street, Suite 2400, Honolulu, HI 96813. James Hayes, 531-7094
Permits: CDUP, NPDES, Community Noise and Noise Variance, Oversize and Overweight Vehicle, building and grading
Comments: FEIS accepted by the Accepting Authority. There is no comment period.

The action involves the construction and operation of an optical/infrared observatory and ancillary facilities.

The Project includes the following proposed components: an observatory in the upper elevations of Mauna Kea; a short Access Way to the observatory; potential improvements to Hale Pohaku; electrical system upgrades between Hale Pohaku and the summit region; and a Headquarters on the UH-Hilo campus.

The proposed TMT Observatory will house a 30-meter diameter primary mirror making it the most capable ground-based telescope in the world. The roughly five acre TMT Observatory site is presently undeveloped land within the Mauna Kea Science Reserve approximately half a mile northwest and 500 feet below the existing optical/infrared observatories near the summit of Mauna Kea. The land is part of the Conservation District, resource subzone.

The project is expected to result in substantial benefits to the local and State economies. Potential less than significant adverse impacts will also occur.

The Final EIS outlines committed to mitigation measures that go beyond compliance with applicable rules, regulations, and requirements. The mitigation measures have been developed to avoid, minimize, rectify, or reduce the Project’s potential adverse environmental impacts.

Mitigation measures have been considered throughout the Project planning process and incorporated into the Project design and construction plans.

For the full FEIS, visit the Office of Environmental Quality Control website at

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