Hawaii’s governor announced Thursday that state officials gave the go-ahead to a construction company that will build a giant telescope on top of a volcano that some Native residents consider sacred.
The state gave the Thirty Meter Telescope project a “notice to proceed” Thursday, coming months after the state Supreme Court upheld the permits for the $1.4 billion project, according to the Associated Press.
“We expect that TMT construction will begin sometime this summer. We will proceed in a way that respects the people, place and culture that make Hawaii unique,” Gov. David Ige (D) said at a news conference. “We are all stewards of Mauna Kea. The state has an obligation to respect and honor the unique cultural and natural resources on this special mountain.”
Critics of the move said the telescope project will violate the sacred land at the top of Mauna Kea, the highest peak in the state and a place of religious importance to Native Hawaiians.
The AP notes state officials removed four unauthorized structures from the top of the mountain earlier in the day just before a group of Native Hawaiians planned to go up to the summit for a nighttime solstice area.
“It’s on the eve of our solstice ceremonies. They know that we go up during solstice and equinox,” Kealoha Pisciotta, a Native Hawaiian activist, told the AP. “We were preparing to head up tonight for the solstice and to honor him.”
She took issue with state officials taking down the structures, calling the move “completely discriminatory” and “hostile to the Native Hawaiian people.”
“If someone went into a church and took down the crucifix or you know the cross, how would that be treated?” Pisciotta added.
She told the AP that police are blocking their access to the summit.
State officials say the project, which first originated in 2009, is scheduled to start this summer.