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Input sought on UH-Hilo proposed teaching telescope

HILO — The University of Hawai‘i at Hilo’s draft environmental assessment (DEA) on its proposal to locate the school’s 28-inch educational telescope at Halepohaku, the mid-level facility on Maunakea, is available for public review and comment.

The proposed project includes a 14-foot-high, 18-foot-diameter dome that will house the teaching telescope. The dome will be placed on a yet-to-be-constructed wooden deck that will connect to an existing building at Halepohaku.

A DEA is required by the state Board of Land and Natural Resources for astronomy facilities placed within the state conservation district, and it is triggered by the use of state land and funds.

The DEA anticipates a finding of no significant impact. The deadline to provide comments on the DEA is Oct. 24. The official state Office of Planning and Sustainable Development notice includes instructions on how to provide comments, which will be considered during the preparation of the final environmental assessment.

“We hope our local community takes some time to learn more about the teaching telescope and how it will benefit not only UH-Hilo students, but the entire island,” said UH-Hilo Chancellor Bonnie Irwin. “I am especially excited for the programming ideas that we have for the community at large to utilize the telescope.”

The public can learn more about the project at an open house at UH-Hilo campus in the Science and Technology Building on Wednesday, Oct. 5, from 5:30 to 7 p.m. It will include presentations by UH-Hilo astronomy faculty and SSFM International Inc.

SSFM will discuss its findings listed in the DEA. Topics will include proposed educational programs, such as culture-based STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) curriculum courses for local elementary , middle- and high-school students along with research opportunities for UH-Hilo students. The public will also be able to see the telescope, housed in the building.

The former site of the UH-Hilo teaching telescope on the summit of Maunakea is now undergoing decommissioning that is scheduled to be completed in 2023.

When the university submitted a notice to proceed in 2016 to decommission the site, more than a dozen community members testified before the Maunakea Management Board and complained about removing the only teaching telescope on the mauna. MKMB ultimately accepted the notice of intent in 2021 when the plan to locate the teaching telescope at Halepohaku was included in the decommissioning plan.
Source: The Garden Island

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