Legislation to create a new management authority for Maunakea is getting another chance after apparently stalling in the House.
The original measure, Senate Bill 3090, has until Friday to pass the House Finance Committee. But without a hearing being scheduled, lawmakers in the Senate are proposing to insert an updated version of that bill into another measure — House Bill 1985 — that already passed the House.
That bill initially pertained to reports on use and value of public lands, but now would establish the new authority, under the proposed rewrite. The new version will be heard before the Senate committees on Water and Land, Ways and Means, and Higher Education at 9:30 a.m. Thursday.
Sen. Kai Kahele, one of the sponsors of SB 3090 who has been championing the proposed new authority, said the Senate wants to “continue the conversation on Maunakea.”
Such rewrites are often referred to as a “gut and replace.” Kahele claimed the Senate is being transparent because it is providing 72 hours notice.
He said a new entity is needed because he thinks the University of Hawaii has taken too long to address criticisms for its management of the mountain or adopt administrative rules that would address access issues.
But SB 3090 has faced opposition from Native Hawaiian cultural practitioners and astronomers alike. The mountain is home to some of the world’s most powerful observatories and also is considered sacred by some Hawaiians.
Kahele, D-Hilo, said the latest version attempts to address criticism by requiring the management authority’s board members to be Hawaii Island residents and establishing a committee to vet candidates for the board. Members would be appointed by the governor.
“It takes the politicalness out of it,” he said. “… From day one, I’ve been trying to make this balanced.”
Five members must be Native Hawaiians, with two nominated by the Office of Hawaiian Affairs..
Other members must be experts in issues pertaining to the environment, astronomy, business and land management.
Daily operations of the authority would be overseen by the board’s chairperson. However, each board member would serve without a salary.
Currently, the mountain is overseen by UH-Hilo’s Office of Maunakea Management, which includes a board of Hawaii Island residents with assistance from a Hawaiian cultural advisory committee. Members are approved by the UH Board of Regents.
UH has been opposed to the legislation.
Greg Chun, OMKM board chairman who also advises UH on Maunakea issues, said he was still reviewing the proposed changes.
Chun noted the UH Board of Regents adopted a resolution last year supporting collaborative stewardship of the mountain, which he said shows that the university knows it needs to look at management beyond a university function or responsibility.
“We recognize that and that’s part of what we’re trying to work towards since adopting the resolution,” he said.
UH holds a master lease for 11,288 acres that ends in 2033 but plans to seek a new land authorization.
The bill would replace UH as the management authority, allowing the new entity to approve and oversee leases for observatories and other uses. It also appears to take the state Land Board out of its oversight role.
In addition, the bill would:
• Limit the number of telescopes to 13. The cap would be nine telescopes by 2028.
• Allow for non-Hawaii residents to be charged a nominal fee to access the summit.
• Give Maunakea rangers police powers.
• Require visitors to take a shuttle service to the top.
OHA would receive 20 percent of all revenue from leases, fees, penalties and commercial activities.
If the bill passes each committee, and a second and third floor vote in the Senate, it will be sent to the House, where members will have to vote it up or down on the floor, thereby bypassing the House’s Finance Committee. If they disagree with the changes, the bill will head to a conference committee.
Kahele has hosted numerous meetings throughout the state about the bill.
But he isn’t the only who has been having community conversations about Maunakea.
On Monday, the EnVision Maunakea report was released, which provides a summary of input received from more than 100 Hawaii Island residents during 15 listening sessions about what the mountain means to them.
Chun, who helped spearhead the process, said the document was sent to UH officials, lawmakers and others. He said the idea is that it will help inform policy making decisions regarding the mountain’s future and other issues, such as adoption of administrative rules for OMKM.
He said a main goal was to have a respectful dialogue about issues surrounding the mountain following the conflict over construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope.
“We were able to hold a conversation about it without it becoming disrespectful,” Chun said.
“The idea of coexistence and peaceful coexistence did seem to be prevalent in my own opinion,” he added.
A common theme was that people, whether they value the mountain for its cultural, scientific or ecological heritage, feel there are too many people accessing the summit, Chun said.
According to UH, there were 44,862 vehicle trips up the mountain in 2017.
Concerns over management, however individuals defined that, also were common.
The report can be viewed at www.envisionmaunakea.org.
Email Tom Callis at firstname.lastname@example.org.