Public is invited to comment on Hōkū Keʻa telescope decommissioning process

The public is strongly encouraged to review the official document and provide comments by October 8, 2021, as provided for in the Environmental Notice.

Small telescope atop Maunakea, in the snow.
UH Hilo 24″ Educational Telescope, Hōkū Keʻa (foreground). Photo UH.

The notice for accepting public comments (PDF) on the Draft Environmental Assessment (DEA) for the decommissioning of the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo Hōkū Keʻa teaching telescope on Maunakea is posted for public review and comment. A DEA is required under Hawaiʻi’s environmental laws for proposed uses of state lands or funds and uses within the state conservation district.

The Hōkū Keʻa decommissioning plan reviewed in the DEA includes the safe and proper removal of two buildings and supporting infrastructure, and restoration of the site to its original state, as much as possible. After the DEA process is complete, the Department of Land and Natural Resources will process and issue a conservation district use permit for the proposed actions. The project is tentatively scheduled to be completed by late 2023, and the site will not be used for astronomy purposes again.

The public is strongly encouraged to review and provide comments by October 8, 2021, as provided for in the Environmental Notice (PDF) that provides links to the official document and methods for submitting comments.

Observatory fully open, exposing lens and levels.
Caltech Submillimeter Observatory. Photo CalTech.

Hōkū Keʻa is one of two Maunakea telescopes in the process of being decommissioned. The Caltech Submillimeter Observatory (CSO) posted its Draft Environmental Assessment for decommissioning on September 8. The CSO decommissioning project is tentatively scheduled to be completed in late 2023. There are 13 observatories on Maunakea, including Hōkū Keʻa and CSO. UH has committed to no more than nine operating astronomy facilities on Maunakea by December 31, 2033.

The Hōkū Keʻa site was built by the U.S. Air Force in 1970 and was one of the first observatories on Maunakea before it was given to UH Hilo. It is located at the south end of the summit ridge next to the UKIRT telescope.

UH has begun the planning process for a new UH Hilo Education Telescope, a state-of-the-art, 0.7-meter telescope system, for the Halepōhaku Mid-Level Facility on Maunakea.

 

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