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Thirty Meter Telescope Receives Permit in Hawaii

The University of Hawaii has applied for and been granted a Conservation District Use Permit (CDUP) to build and operate the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) on Mauna Kea. The permit was granted by the Board of Land and Natural Resources (BLNR) of Hawaii’s Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR).

The permitting process began on September 1, 2010, with the approval of a Draft Conservation District Use Application by the DLNR. This draft was open for public comment until November 23, 2010. The DLNR then held public hearings on December 2-3, 2010, to receive comments on the application. The application was approved at the BLNR’s open meeting on February 25, 2011. Also at this meeting the BLNR granted a Contested Case at the request of petitioners, which will be addressed at a separate meeting.

The CDUP is the final step in what has been a multi-year process that began in July of 2009 when TMT’s Board of Directors selected Mauna Kea as the preferred site for the telescope. This selection followed an unprecedented five-year global campaign to identify locations with the best atmospheric and environmental conditions for observing. The TMT then completed a rigorous Environmental Impact Statement, which began in 2008. The EIS was finalized and approved in 2010 by the then governor of Hawaii Linda Lingle.

The TMT now requires a sublease from the University of Hawaii, which leases the Astronomy Precinct lands from the DLNR. The sublease requires approval by the UH Board of Regents, the TMT Board, and the BLNR.

The TMT will be the world's most advanced and capable optical/infrared observatory. It will be sited on the northern plateau of Mauna Kea at a location known as 13N within Area E. The site is part of Mauna Kea’s 525-acre Astronomy Precinct and was identified in the 2000 Mauna Kea Science Reserve Master Plan as the preferred location for the future development of a next generation large telescope. This location was singled out because of its outstanding observing conditions and its reduced impact on existing facilities, natural habitats, and archaeological and historical sites.

“The Thirty Meter Telescope has worked diligently during the past three years to design an observatory that would minimize its environmental and cultural impact,” said Sandra Dawson, TMT’s Manager of Hawaii Community Affairs. “The TMT project also fulfills the requirements outlined in the recently approved Comprehensive Management Plan for Mauna Kea. This plan provides the guiding principles for the use and stewardship of the mountain for all purposes, including astronomy.”

In addition to the telescope, the TMT project will include an access roadway to the site, a support building, underground utilities, and a headquarters in Hilo.

The TMT project is an international partnership among the California Institute of Technology, the University of California, and the Association of Canadian Universities for Research in Astronomy, joined by the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan, the National Astronomical Observatories of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and the Department of Science and Technology of India.

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