Judge Greg Nakamura of the Third Circuit Court of Hawaii ruled in favor of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) on Wednesday, upholding an approval by the Hawaii Board of Land and Natural Resources (BLNR) of a Conservation District Use Permit for TMT. This moves the $1.3 billion project another step closer to starting construction in the summer of 2014.
Judge Nakamura’s ruling had several components.
Nakamura affirmed that the BLNR approval of the Conservation District Use Application (CDUA) prior to what is known as a Contested Case did not warrant a reversal of the Decision and Order. For TMT, the BLNR granted a contested case hearing simultaneously with the preliminary granting of the CDUA.
Judge Nakamura's ruling also affirmed that astronomy facilities under an approved management plan are an appropriate use in the astronomy precinct on Maunakea, and that Native Hawaiian cultural practices and resources were properly and adequately considered.
The TMT CDUA includes a project site plan to protect and conserve natural resources. It also incorporates the Maunakea Comprehensive Management Plan and its four subplans.
"For many years, we have been actively reaching out to the community, schools, university, government, and legislatures in Hawaii, ensuring that TMT listens and is sensitive and responsive to ideas that our neighbors and friends may have about our project, such as new knowledge initiatives, workforce development, environmental sustainability, education, cultural awareness, Hawaiian language, and other programs," said Henry Yang, Chair of the TMT Collaborative Board of Directors. "We sincerely thank our many supporters, who have helped us craft a vision for astronomy's next-generation observatory on the Mauna Kea. We look forward to beginning construction later this summer."
To complete the requirements needed to begin construction, TMT will receive a sublease from the University of Hawaii. Kahu Ku Mauna and the Mauna Kea Management Board reviewed, and the University of Hawaii Board of Regents approved a proposed TMT sublease. A final hearing with the Board of Land and Natural Resources - the last step in the sublease approval process - is expected to occur in May.