AP NEWS

Governor says Hawaii spent $15M to ensure Mauna Kea access

December 18, 2019 GMT

HILO, Hawaii (AP) — Hawaii has spent about $15 million to ensure safe access to Mauna Kea during an ongoing protest of a giant telescope project, the governor said.

Democratic Gov. David Ige said the cost was higher than anticipated to maintain access to the mountain road during demonstrations against the Thirty Meter Telescope project, The Hawaii Tribune-Herald reported.

The Hawaii County Council is expected to vote Wednesday on a resolution to authorize Mayor Harry Kim to enter an agreement with the state to receive $10 million to reimburse the county for law enforcement expenditures.

The telescope will defile sacred land atop Mauna Kea, the state’s highest peak and a place of religious importance to Native Hawaiians, opponents have said. Scientists contend the summit is one of the best places on Earth for astronomy and several telescopes and observatories are already on the summit.

Ige asked his department heads to “incorporate estimates of what we think is necessary” and “contingency requests” for expenditures related to the demonstration in the state’s supplemental budget for fiscal years 2020 and 2021, he said.

“Certainly it’s (cost) more than we thought it would,” Ige said. “But, you know, part of the notion is that we believe we have an obligation to ensure that those that are legally permitted with projects have the ability to access their construction sites so that the projects can move forward.”

Hawaii County spent about $4.5 million in police costs related to the protests by Nov. 1, Hawaii County Finance Director Deanna Sako said during a Dec. 3 meeting.