State House and Senate on a collision course over the future of astronomy on Mauna Kea

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – The State House and the Senate are on a collision course over the future of astronomy on Mauna Kea.

Senate lawmakers on Friday passed a bill that keeps the university in charge of telescopes at the top.

That’s different from the House bill, which the governor says could kill the Thirty Meter Telescope project and other observatories.

State Senator Donovan Dela Cruz, chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, said the Senate bill “addresses the perceived threat to future astronomy in our state.”

The authority, Dela Cruz said, would “conserve, protect and properly manage public uses of Mauna Kea conservation lands. At the same time, the University will be solely responsible for the maintenance and management of the astronomy research grounds.

The university would sublease 9,450 acres to the new authority, but UH would be solely responsible for negotiating its subleases with the telescopes.

“It puts Mauna Kea first in terms of land conservation and it also puts the observatories and the astronomy enclosure first,” said Senate Higher Education Chair Donna Mercado Kim.

In a recent interview with Hawaii News Now, Governor David Ige warned that earlier versions of the bill could have killed the Thirty Meter Telescope project and astronomy on Mauna Kea due to uncertainty surrounding renegotiation. telescope leases.

“Do they intend to stop astronomy on the island of Hawaii. They should be clear about this. Do they support astronomy or do they think it should be stopped? said Ige.

But Mercado Kim says the governor was wrong.

“The problem is that we never heard from the governor,” Mercado Kim said. “We put a lot of things in place that sent the message that this isn’t the end of astronomy.”

State Senator Kurt Fevella is against the Thirty Meter Telescope and UH being the sole manager of Mauna Kea. He says he voted for the bill even though he disagrees with parts of it.

“We can continue to separate Mauna Kea from the university. You can’t do it all at once or the bill would be dead,” Fevella said.

The House and Senate have different positions on the university’s role on the mountain and the differences will have to be negotiated or the bill will die.

Copyright 2022 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.

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