UPDATED: County police to halt increased Saddle Road enforcement

UPDATED 3:50 p.m.:

Hawaii County police officers will also be called off the mountain tomorrow as the Thirty Meter Telescope project stalls.

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Police Chief Paul Ferreira said he will remove the increased police enforcement by 3:30 p.m. Friday from the Daniel K. Inouye Highway in conjunction with the removal of state law enforcement officers.

Increased police presence around the Maunakea Access Road began in August and resulted in more than 8,000 traffic citations and 74 arrests.

State employees are working to remove the barricades and temporary traffic light from the highway around the access road, Ferreira said.

PREVIOUSLY:

Gov. David Ige announced today that the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope will not proceed in the immediate future and the Maunakea Access Road will be reopened to the public.

At a press conference in Honolulu, Ige said that the TMT project has informed him that the project is not ready to proceed with construction on Maunakea, and the state will therefore attempt to “de-escalate” the standoff at Maunakea Access Road by removing state law enforcement officers from the area.

Ige repeatedly said the TMT project is not abandoning the Big Island and will continue to work with the state to find a way to proceed with construction at a later time. However, he added that the project has not yet shared any timeline for when it might be prepared to begin construction again.

“I don’t believe this changes anything, per se,” Ige said.

The decision to pull back officers from the mountain was reached after discussions with Hawaii County Police Chief Paul Ferreira, Ige said. It is currently unclear whether the county will also decrease its police presence around the access road.

Ige did not have a timeline for when the officers will be removed from the summit, but said he would work to remove state personnel “in a prudent manner.”

With the access road to be reopened to the public for the time being, Ige said he hopes the protesters camped on the roadway will leave to avoid the worst of the winter weather.

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Ige also said he will honor his commitment to reimburse Hawaii County for more than $5 million in TMT-related law enforcement expenses, regardless of the County Council’s Wednesday decision to reject a reimbursement deal.

See the full story in Friday’s edition of the Tribune-Herald.

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