Key Milestone Met For Decommissioning of Big Island Observatory
The decommissioning of a learning telescope atop Maunakea on the Big Island recently met a critical milestone.
The University of Hawaiʻi, following months of evaluation and outreach, determined the decommissioning of its Hōkū Keʻa Observatory will have no significant adverse environmental impacts, as documented in the final environmental assessment and finding of no significant impact published June 23 in The Environmental Notice.
The proposed project reviewed in the final environmental assessment includes the removal of two buildings and supporting infrastructure and restoration of the site to its original state, as much as possible.
The state Department of Land and Natural Resources can now complete its review of UH’s application for a conservation district use permit. DLNR will then present the permit application to the state Board of Land and Natural Resources for its consideration. If the permit is issued, the university can begin the removal of the observatory and site restoration.
The decommissioning is tentatively scheduled to be completed by late 2023. Hōkū Keʻa is one of two Maunakea telescopes undergoing decommissioning. The removal of the Caltech Submillimeter Observatory is tentatively scheduled to be completed by Caltech late next year.
Located on the southeastern side of the 528-acre astronomy precinct on the summit of Maunakea, the Hōkū Keʻa site was built by the U.S. Air Force in 1970 and was one of the first observatories on the mauna before it was given to UH-Hilo.
After lengthy consultation with the Maunakea Management Board and Kahu Kū Mauna, UH is in the planning process to install a new teaching telescope for UH-Hilo, a state-of-the-art, 0.7-meter telescope system, in a small structure at Halepōhaku, a mid-level facility on the mauna.