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Altar built on Mauna Kea after state dismantles structures

June 22, 2019

HILO, Hawaii (AP) — A new altar has been built near the summit of Mauna Kea, less than a day after state officials dismantled two other “ahu” in preparation for the construction of one of the most advanced telescopes in the world.

The new ahu isn’t directly blocking access to the site where the Thirty Meter Telescope is planned, the Hawaii Tribune-Herald reported .

The two dismantled ahu were blocking access to the site.

The new ahu is across the road from the Maunakea Visitor Information Station where a structure called Hale o Kukiaimauna stood until state officials took it down Thursday.

State officials announced they were giving permission for construction to begin on the Thirty Meter Telescope.

The decision came after the state Supreme Court in October upheld the project’s permits.

Gov. David Ige said the state took down four unauthorized structures from the mountain on Thursday.

Native Hawaiian activists and telescope opponents said they used the structures for years and their removal was discriminatory and amounted to desecration.

The new ahu was not built with a permit.

Opponents say the telescope will defile sacred land atop Mauna Kea, the state’s highest peak and a place of religious importance to Native Hawaiians.

Scientists say the summit is one of the best places on Earth for astronomy. Several telescopes and observatories are already on the summit.

Construction of the telescope is expected to begin this summer. It’s designed to allow astronomers to see back 13 billion years to answer fundamental questions about the advent of the universe.

Plans for the project date to 2009, when scientists selected Mauna Kea after a five-year, around-the-world campaign to find the ideal site.

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