Mauna Kea Summit Road Remains Closed Until Further Notice
By Wendy Osher
The Mauna Kea summit road beginning at the Halepōhaku mid-level facilities will remain closed to all but authorized personnel until further notice, according to an announcement issued today by the University of Hawaiʻi.
The University’s Office of Mauna Kea Management issued a statement saying crews are currently “assessing damage to the road and stability of the slopes for potential rock falls,” amid ongoing demonstrations against the Thirty Meter Telescope that resulted in additional arrests and widespread media coverage last week.
Here on Maui, a separate demonstration at the Central Maui Baseyard effectively prevented a convoy from departing to deliver equipment to the Daniel K Inouye Solar Telescope under construction at Haleakalā on Maui.
University officials say UH exercised its authority under the Mauna Kea Comprehensive Management Plan to close the road last week due to hazardous conditions which included the presence of boulders on the road, rock walls that “fully obstructed the road in some areas” and the erection of two ahu in the road.
“The obstructions prevented the university from grading the road, a necessary road safety procedure performed twice weekly,” University officials said in a press release statement.
The Visitor Information Station at the 9,200 foot level is also closed until further notice for health and safety reasons.
On Friday, Governor Ige addressed the issue during a scheduled appearance before the Maui Chamber of Commerce.
At the annual luncheon, Ige said, “We are committed to ensure both projects… can proceed as they are approved to do. It’s just a matter of working out the specific details. First and foremost it’s about safety and I did express to the team yesterday when we met, that we need to figure out a way for the project to begin so that the workers are safe, the protesters can be safe and the public can be safe in visiting. We are looking towards identifying what specific systems we need to put in place that would ensure that the project can move forward.”
On Friday, Governor Ige issued the following statement about the recent incidents atop Mauna Kea:
“We are a patient people in Hawai‘i. We listen to and understand differing points of view, and we respect the many cultures of this land, especially that of the host culture. I have done my very best to follow this process in the case of Mauna Kea and set forth a way forward that I believe is reasonable.
“We expected there to be a protest when construction resumed, and there was. We hoped we would not have to arrest people but were prepared to do so, and we did when they blocked the roadway. We also saw, in what amounts to an act of vandalism, the roadway blocked with rocks and boulders. We deployed to remove the rocks and boulders, but the protesters wisely chose to remove them themselves.
“And then we saw more attempts to control the road. That is not lawful or acceptable to the people of Hawai‘i. So let me be very direct: The roads belong to all the people of Hawai‘i and they will remain open. We will do whatever is necessary to ensure lawful access. We expect there to be more types of challenges, good and bad days, and we are in this for the long run. We value TMT and the contributions of science and technology to our society, and we continue our support of the project’s right to proceed.
“We are currently working to find ways to enable the TMT project to proceed safely without putting workers, protestors and the general public at risk.”
University officials say they agree with Governor Ige’s concerns that “actions that unlawfully obstruct the road to the summit are unacceptable.” According the a statement today, UH officials said, “UH supports the governor’s wish to open a safe roadway to all.”