WAILUKU - The evidentiary phase of a contested case challenge to plans for an Advanced Technology Solar Telescope atop Haleakala wrapped up Wednesday in Wailuku.
Lisa Munger, attorney for the University of Hawaii, pressed for a prompt wrap-up of other legal matters, so hearings officer Steven Jacobson could get his findings and recommendations to the state Board of Land and Natural Resources.
At issue on the final day of cross-examination were past practices compared with present attitudes.
Don Reeser, for many years superintendent at Haleakala National Park, testifies about impacts from the Advanced Technology Solar Telescope, proposed for a site just outside the park’s summit boundary.
The Maui News / HARRY EAGAR photo
Don Reeser, the retired superintendent of Haleakala National Park, had provided testimony that the proposed solar telescope would negatively impact the nearby park with noise and a big telescope building, and it would degrade the preservation of Native Hawaiian traditional and cultural practices.
Munger asked him whether he had raised similar objections in 1994, when the Air Force Advanced Electrical-Optical System telescopes were erected on the same 18-acre Haleakala High Altitude Observatory where the solar telescope is planned.
He hadn't, he said, but over time attitudes may have changed.
One objection to the solar telescope from Kilakila O Haleakala, the intervenor, concerns "digging into Pele" in a wao akua (territory of the gods). Reeser agreed that when the House of the Sun observatory center had its woefully inadequate toilets upgraded during his administration, contractors had to dig down 25 feet to install a septic leach field.
He agreed that he had balanced the health and safety gains of better lua - which had been the number one source of complaints from visitors - with interference with native cultural ideas.
In his summing up, Kilakila attorney David Kimo Frankel argued that some things are not mitigatable, including rights of Native Hawaiian practitioners. He denied that benefits off site could be used to compensate for losses on site.
That referred back both to Reeser's dilemma and to the testimony of university witness Paul Coleman, an astrophysicist at the UH Institute for Astronomy and a Native Hawaiian.
Kilakila attorney Sharla Manley quizzed Coleman on whether any of his ancestors had "buried their piko" (umbilical cords) at Haleakala, or whether he himself prayed to native gods.
Coleman said he didn't know about the piko, but that he had studied chant and chanted himself and tried to use chants to educate non-Hawaiians at the IfA about the meaning of their entry into Hawaiian places, "to show the importance and ask permission when we go into a place."
Manley asked him whether he prayed (pule) or chanted (oli). Coleman said he had studied oli.
He said if the solar telescope were built, "I would like to see more of me" on the staff, and to see young Hawaiians interested in science able to pursue that interest "without having to go to the continent."
But Frankel alleged Coleman has self-interest, since he is slated to be co-principal investigator if a proposed $20 million grant to the University of Maui College department of Hawaiian studies is given by the National Science Foundation as part of its telescope plan.
Kiope Raymond of Kilakila said: "It does not matter if a few Hawaiians think that a few other Hawaiians will benefit. The overwhelming majority of Hawaiians believe it will have long-term, major, adverse impacts." But he emphasized it was nothing personal against Coleman.
Raymond, also an employee of UH, said he is not against Hawaiians also being astronomers. His objection is to the location.
In her final arguments, Munger noted that since the two ahu (altars) were built within the university's Haleakala High Altitude Observatory, and since the general public is excluded, Science City is now "the only place they (Hawaiian practitioners) can go and a million other people cannot."
She said the conservation district application met every requirement of the zone and astronomy subzone, but Frankel countered that the very name Science City - an informal moniker but one with a long history - indicates that a conservation area is becoming urbanized.
"It is at a tipping point," he said.
The land board approved the conservation district use permit in December. Kilakila intervened. The university (the applicant for the permit, although the telescope will be owned by the National Science Foundation) is eager for a quick return to the BLNR.
But whether the board confirms, denies or modifies the permit, both sides are expecting somebody to appeal to Circuit Court. The issues, Jacobson noted, are of enough legal interest that some of them will likely find their way to the Hawaii Supreme Court.
* Harry Eagar can be reached at email@example.com.