Haleakala plan sets telescope guidelines

Honolulu Advertiser
Monday, July 19, 2004

Associated Press

WAILUKU, Maui — Any new telescopes on the summit of Maui's Haleakala would be allowed only on sites that have already been developed, under a master planning agreement developed by the University of Hawai'i's Institute for Astronomy in consultation with native Hawaiian cultural groups.

The first-of-its-kind agreement also calls for a cultural expert to supervise building operations and set aside land for Hawaiian cultural and religious use.

Details were included in the draft of a long-range development plan released recently by the Institute for Astronomy.

Institute spokesman Michael Maberry said the plan would be a guide for development over the next decade.

"We've never had a plan before. This is the first plan we've had," he said. The objective is "for us to accomplish our scientific goals in a culturally and environmentally sensitive manner."

Hawaiian cultural specialist Charles Kauluwehi Maxwell Sr. said he was very pleased with the plan. He said other provisions require new workers to learn about Hawaiian culture and Haleakala's significance and any soil or rocks that are dug up at the summit must be left at the mountaintop, not taken downhill to be crushed or discarded.

"I never thought I could get this much," he said. "They cannot even move cinders with a hoe or alter the ground in any way without us first finding out what it's all about."

Haleakala is home to the Mees Solar Observatory and an adjoining facility operated by the Institute for Astronomy, the under-construction Faulkes Telescope Project and the Air Force's Maui Space Surveillance Complex.

NASA's former Lunar Ranging Experiment Observatory is being redeveloped to house a University of Tokyo 2-meter telescope, and a prototype asteroid-spotting observatory, the $10 million Pan-STARRS (Panoramic Survey Telescope & Rapid Response System).

Haleakala also is in the running for the Advanced Technology Solar Telescope, a $100 million project that would establish the winning site as a leader in solar research.

Don Reeser, superintendent of Haleakala National Park, had some reservations about the plan.

"It seems to me like the concept is 'Haleakala is a great place for astronomical research, so we hope to build more,' " he said, adding that he hopes to see a more analytical approach to the plan for development, including a presentation on possible alternatives of use.

"There's a lot of good data that explains what's there and what's proposed for the immediate future," he said. "It doesn't really discuss alternatives like an environmental impact statement would for public discussion."

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