Setting the Record Straight
There have been erroneous reports that the Office of Mauna Kea Management closed the road to the summit of Maunakea for TMT's scheduled groundbreaking and blessing ceremony held earlier this month.
OMKM in consultation with the Hawaii County Police Department made a decision to keep the road to the summit open to allow everyone access while providing a safe environment for all who visited.
The Sierra Club's Moku Loa Group Chair Nelson Ho through his own admission wasn't at the summit. Nevertheless, he recently wrote a letter to the editor in both Hawaii Tribune Herald and West Hawaii Today that commented on the, "ill-advised blocking of a public road by the Office of Mauna Kea Management and county police."
Former OMKM Board Chair Barry Taniguchi's response to Mr. Ho's letter that appeared in both papers follows.
Response to Ho
The Sierra Club's statement from Nelson Ho that appeared (in West Hawaii Today on Oct. 15 and Oct. 19 in the Tribune-Herald) contained erroneous information in reference to the closure of the Mauna Kea Access Road during the scheduled groundbreaking ceremony for the Thirty Meter Telescope onOct. 7.
I was there; Nelson Ho, by his admission, was not.
As the former chair of the Mauna Kea Management Board and a member for 12 years, I have firsthand knowledge of the critical importance the Office of Mauna Kea Management places on open access to this resource. OMKM instituted the ranger program to protect the natural and cultural resources and to guard against unsafe conduct that might endanger lives.
The OMKM Public Access Plan, approved by the state Board of Land and Natural Resources, states that the highest management priorities for public access in the UH management areas are public health and safety, and the conservation of natural and cultural resources. The plan also states that road safety for all users on the Summit Access Road will be a high management priority.
The OMKM worked with the Hawaii County police and fire departments, sheriff's office and DLNR's Division of Conservation and Resource Enforcement Branch to develop a plan to keep summit access open while providing for a safe environment for all, and to keep an emergency lane clear. OMKM rangers and staff were also on hand to see to the safety of everyone - making sure those who were not feeling well could receive medical attention.
The Mauna Kea Access Road, including access to the summit, was not closed by OMKM or the Hawaii County police. The road was blocked by individuals protesting the groundbreaking ceremony. The road leading to the groundbreaking site is a narrow and rocky one-way lane.
Keeping it free and clear was a paramount public health safety concern. I was dismayed to learn that an ambulance transporting a sick individual down from the high-altitude summit was delayed at the blockade, and rangers had to intervene and request an opening in the road to allow passage.
Further, "dubious shortcuts through state and federal laws" as intimated by Mr. Ho, are nonexistent. The university followed and complied with all procedures. The various legal procedures and court decisions included a careful review of all the facts and evidence, including those presented by the opponents. I feel confident in the court's decision thus far.
Barry K. Taniguchi