Mauna Kea Summit Road Open Ahead Of Potential Sweep

Dec 25, 2019

The Mauna Kea Access Road on Hawaii Island is once again open to the public, but the situation on the mountain remains uncertain.

State authorities officially closed the access road in July to allow equipment for the Thirty Meter Telescope to move to its building site.

Opponents of the telescope converged at the base of the mountain to stop construction, creating a stalemate that has persisted for five months.

The state reopened the summit road last week after Gov. David Ige announced he was withdrawing law enforcement personnel from the area. 

The withdrawal followed news from the Thirty Meter Telescope International Organization, developer of the project, that it was suspending construction plans at this time, citing the inability of the state and Hawaii County to ensure safe access to the building site.

Despite the governor's move toward de-escalation by withdrawing enforcement officers, demonstrators say they are staying put. However, they also stated they will not obstruct anyone who is not part of TMTʻs construction from using the summit road.

It appears the Christmas thaw may be short-lived. Anti-TMT organizer and spokesman Kahookahi Kanuha says a senior conservation enforcement officer gave demonstrators a deadline to clear out or face arrest.

"He is asking, and proposing, that we remove ourselves from the road along with these structures and he has given us until December 26th to have this road cleared," Kanuha said in a video posted to various social media platforms on Thursday.

The governor’s office would not confirm that such an ultimatum had been issued, saying only that the administration would not disclose operational details.

When he  announced law enforcement would pull out, Ige himself was specifically asked by a reporter what would happen to protesters who remained in place. He declined to address the matter, saying only that state agencies were supporting Hawaii County by request.

County police officers withdrew from the area on Friday, under orders from Mayor Harry Kim and County Police Chief Ferreira. It remains unclear what, if any, Mauna Kea-related law enforcement operations are planned for the day after Christmas.