Hawaii governor withdraws state of emergency for Mauna Kea as hurricanes approach

Posted at 4:56 AM, Jul 31, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-31 06:56:35-04

Hawaii Gov. David Ige withdrew an emergency proclamation for Mauna Kea on Tuesday as two hurricanes approach, saying there are “no immediate plans to move heavy equipment up the mountain” to start construction on a controversial new telescope.

“For the safety of all involved, we do believe we want to de-escalate activities,” Ige told reporters Tuesday.

The proclamation, issued on June 17, gave law enforcement greater authority to close roads and restrict access on Mauna Kea as protesters opposed to construction of the Thirty-Meter Telescope blocked a road leading to the top of Hawaii’s tallest mountain. Ige said at the time that the proclamation was intended to “protect the health, safety, and welfare” of the people on Hawaii’s Big Island and across the state.

Its withdrawal comes as hurricanes Erick and Flossie are moving toward the Hawaiian islands. Hurricane Erick is not expected to make landfall, but may bring heavy rain and wind, Ige told reporters. On its heels, Hurricane Flossie could bring more significant impacts, he said.

“I am actually considering an emergency proclamation as the storm approaches, just like I do for any kind of situation where we anticipate significant impact to the state,” Ige said Tuesday.

Although construction on Mauna Kea won’t move forward while Hawaii is in the storms’ paths, Ige said the project will still continue. He said Tuesday that the state had extended the Thirty-Meter Telescope permit to start construction for two more years.

Hundreds of protesters have blocked a road leading to the top of mountain as construction was set to begin on the telescope. Hawaiian groups have opposed building the telescope on top of Mauna Kea because they see the mountain as sacred.

A judge denied a request for a temporary restraining order last week that would have prevented the construction.

Ige said on Tuesday that conversations are not closed with protestors.

“We continue to believe that there may be ideas that we haven’t personally thought of that might be helpful, and so certainly the mayor and I will continue to engage those who care about our community and those who care about Mauna Kea,” Ige said.