HONOLULU (AP) — Long-running hearings for whether a giant telescope can be built atop a Hawaii mountain have wrapped up. But it will be a while before a decision is made on a project that has prompted intense protests by those who believe it will desecrate sacred land.
Oftentimes emotional testimony concluded Thursday evening after 71 people testified over 44 days on the Big Island. Testifiers included Native Hawaiians who believe the project will harm cultural and religious practices on Mauna Kea and Native Hawaiians who believe it will provide jobs and educational opportunities.
The hearings officer will recommend whether the state land board should grant a construction permit for the Thirty Meter Telescope. If there are exceptions filed to the hearings officer's recommendations, the land board will hear arguments before issuing a written decision.
"We remain hopeful that the state can issue a permit in a timely manner to start construction in April 2018," said Scott Ishikawa, a spokesman for the telescope.
This second round of contested-case hearings was necessary after the state Supreme Court invalidated an earlier permit issued by the board.
The state has spent nearly $225,000 on the hearings, according to figures provided by state Department of Land and Natural Resources spokesman Dan Dennison.
Telescope officials have selected a backup site in the Spanish-controlled Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Africa if they can't build in Hawaii.