Sierra Club Comments

The Sacred House of the Sun


Hawaiian Protocol for Sacred Places
E Ui No Ka ‘Ae
Ask Permission,
E Mahalo Aku
Give Thanks,
E Komo Me Ka Hōano
Enter With Reverence,
I ka hele aku, e ho’oma’amau I ka wahi!
When you leave, return it as you found it!

The summit of Haleakalā represents many things to the indigenous people of Hawai’i.   The ancient spiritual use of Haleakalā was for meditation and receiving spiritual wisdom by na Kāhuna Po’o (the lead priests).   It is said to be a place where the tones of ancient prayer are balanced within the vortex of energy for spiritual manifestations.   In ancient times, only the Kāhuna and their haumana (students) lived at Haleakalā for initiation rites and practices.   All who visit Haleakalā should strive to become sensitized to the subtleties of nature and the culture of this sacred place.  Considering the aggregated eons of history at Haleakalā, this summit demands respect.   It is a place of prayer; it is Ala hea ka la – the path to calling the sun.
When Pele, the goddess of fire, first visited Haleakalā, she dug a deep pit and made sixteen pu’u (hills, cinder cones).   These pu’u form a sacred alignment from the summit of Haleakalā, to the tip of Haneo’o and continues for about 30 miles into the ocean.   Along this path, on the eastern side of Haleakalā, there were over 300 heiau (temples), the highest concentration in the Hawaiian archipelago.    The ancient Hawaiians knew these things about Haleakalā and kept its secrets for those coming after to love, protect and preserve.  Those that ventured there in the days of old did so with care and reverence, to worship, and to observe the heavens (as well as for navigation).
To take any action, other than NO ACTION, would be a trespass on one of the most sacred and revered sites on Earth.   When Jay April’s wonderful film Haleakalā: A Sense of Place was shown at the Maui Arts and Cultural Center, Kahu Uncle Charlie Maxwell was asked the question if he thought it was appropriate to make a jump from how ancient Hawaiians observed and used the stars to how UH IfA and the Air Force propose to use the sacred summit with defense projects such as Pan-STARRS.  He responded by saying he didn’t know, “…but they would have to follow all the rules that were set forth to follow cultural protocol and cultural respect of the land before anything is built.”  He then added” Oh, and one more I forgot:  That if they are going to build anything, they got to tear something down and put it in its place.”
None of the five buildings at the top of this inimitable summit have been taken down yet, but   at the last informational community meeting at Pukalani in 2006, one of the members of the ATST team informed the public that each facility has an estimated service life.   He further stated that at the conclusion of its useful service, the facility should be dismantled and the site returned to its natural state.   He added that two facilities on the mainland would be dismantled when the ATST project was put up.     Therefore, all references in the DEIS suggesting that this project has a less significant impact on the sacredness of Haleakalā, because previous projects have already been constructed near the site (inferring that the damage has already been done so one more won’t really make that much difference) should be rethought.   If all future construction is stopped immediately and no further action of any type is taken, then at some designated point of time in the foreseeable future Haleakalā will be returned to its natural state.   Each additional project subjects this irreplaceable sacred site to more desecration.   At what point will it be irretrievably altered?   Certainly it is time to stop and repair the damage.  Haleakalā undoubtedly deserves that much respect, and much much more.   You might listen to the heartfelt song Kilakila ‘O Haleakalā (Majestic Haleakalā), if you want to get a feel for the deep respect this wonderful mountain deserves.
As noted in the DEIS, the construction of the 14 story structure is viewed by Native Hawaiians to be a cultural desecration of a sacred site.   It will have a significant impact on the view shed in an adverse manner and will irreversibly interfere with the United States Constitutionally protected spiritual practices of  the indigenous people of Hawaii.  For the above reasons alone, a decision of no action should be an easy and correct conclusion.
If you want other specific reasons, they are present as well.    We are assuming for purposes of this comment, that all community comments presented at community meetings during the discussion periods throughout Maui Nui will be incorporated into the Final EIS.   We were told when the members of the community presented their oral testimony that it would be transcribed and submitted to NSF to be included in the Final EIS, so we will not duplicate the comments presented at those meetings herein and the DEIS should be corrected accordingly.

Mitigation of Cultural Resources:  In Kahu Charles Kauluwehi Maxwell Sr.’s  Final Report entitled E Malama Mau ka La’a, there appears to be an initial assumption that this project will be constructed irrespective of the objections to the building of the ATST on Haleakalā.   For purposes of a cultural resources and traditional practices evaluation, the preparer should have considered all possible options, including the option of “no action”, which does not seem to be the case.
On page 62 of his report, Kahu Maxwell acknowledges that “any building or structure built on this site is an intrusion on the sacredness and spirituality of this mountain revered by the Hawaiian people past and present,” and then goes on to conclude that a balance between building on the site and the cultural practices of the Hawaiian people must be reached.   There does not appear to be a logical correlation between these two statements, and he does not explain why he can come to the conclusion that a balance between digging and desecration is what should be achieved.   In fact, an assessment with an open mind to “no action” should have drawn a completely different conclusion.   This report is incomplete and should be re-evaluated with the “no action” alternative considered.
Additionally, there is no legal or rational nexus between the cause and effect listed in his report.   He starts with the premise that “any building or structure built on this site is an intrusion on the sacredness and spirituality of this mountain revered by the Hawaiian people past and present,” and then apparently concludes that this premise can be adequately mitigated by certain actions he suggests, including the use of cultural protocol before, during and after construction.   Unfortunately, this proposed mitigation will not reverse, stop or even diminish the desecration.   It might make some feel better about it, but the desecration will remain.   The report seems to imply that the proposed violation would be lessened by building with cultural sensitivity.   In fact, any construction on the summit is absolute desecration of sacred ground.  Greater sensitivity on the part of the construction workers is not an appropriate response to desecrating sacred ground.   As noted in the DEIS, any foundation excavation on the mountaintop would be a wound to a highly sacred place.    The only way to stop the desecration is to prohibit it from happening in the first place. This possibility is blatantly ignored in the present report.
First Amendment religious rights are allowed to be absolute just because of their nature.   They are not limited to shades of gray.   This is one of those absolutes.   “No action” should be indicated.
Interestingly, the National Science Foundation found that the summit constitutes a “traditional cultural property”, a term used by the National Register of Historic Places to identify properties eligible for inclusion in the National Register because of their association with the cultural practices or beliefs of a “living community.”   This view is shared by the State Historic Preservation Division at the DLNR.   (Honolulu Advertiser October 12, 2006)    When a property is placed within the Historic Registry, it is protected from such desecration as would occur on this site should the project go forward.   Haleakalā should be offered the same protection as any other “traditional cultural property” and, when that standard is applied herein, no action should be taken.
In addition, the report never considered any similar projects that were proposed on sacred or cultural sites.   In order to prepare a proper mitigation analysis on the sites at Haleakalā, other sacred sites with similar projects actually built upon them need to be considered, including whether the proposed mitigation actually worked or not.   In addition, similar sacred sites that were considered, but the projects were not completed because the cultural resources could not be adequately protected or mitigated, should be discussed as well.    Such comparisons are necessary to effectively present an adequate mitigation analysis.   Otherwise, this could be deemed to be speculative in nature.
The cultural resources analysis should be reconsidered.   The actual “least impact as possible” referred to in the report should not be limited to the mitigation matters suggested.   The least impact as possible should be not to construct the ATST on Haleakalā.    For once, put the needs of the Hawaiian people to the forefront.   That would be pono.

View Planes:  
            The summit of Haleakalā is one of the most beautiful vistas on Hawaii   It is almost comical to imply that a 14 story telescope on the summit of this magnificent mountain will not dominate or displace a significant fraction of that vista.   Trying to focus people on the fact that you have the rest of the mountain to look at is not relevant to the issue.   When you look at Haleakalā, where do your eyes focus?   Inevitably, they take you to the summit.   The summit is the optimal view plane, and that is where this facility will be located.   The fact that it is less obtrusive from different parts of the island is not the point.   If it is obtrusive to kama’aina or tourists from any where on the island,  that is sufficient reason to decide that it should not be built.   Over 1,000,000 tourists go to the summit of Haleakalā National Park every year.   They rise at 2 in the morning and drive to the Ranger Station overlooking the crater to view the sunrise over the crater.    In the DEIS, it was noted that a big consideration at the La Palma site (second over-all choice) was the impact the telescope might have on the view from a specific peak called the Cumbrecita.   This view is so important to the visitors of that area that the government enacted laws and the local courts handed down decisions that protected that special view plane.   The telescope could not have been built there if it interfered with that particular view plane. Shouldn’t the same consideration be given to Haleakalā, which is sacred as well as beautiful?  (The findings in the DEIS are that there were no known archaeological or culturally important features in the area that would be impacted by construction of ATST at La Palma.  Another reason it should be constructed at La Palma, not Haleakalā).
The DEIS makes the statement that the construction of the ATST would have a less than significant impact on the view plane.   (pg ES-22).   One of the factors the report relied upon in forming this conclusion, apparently, is their bold assertion that the14 story starkly high white telescope on the summit of Haleakalā is considered by some to be not even noticeable and/or even beautiful.   Of interest, we could not find one person who heard anyone testify that they thought the structure would be a beautiful addition to the vista.   To try to imply that a majority or even a substantial minority of Hawaiians or visitors to the Island of Maui would find such a structure beautiful is simply misdirection.   View planes can be subjective, but in coming to the conclusion of “less than significant impact”, the report should give greater consideration to the opinions of the large majority of individuals viewing this magnificent vista.   The overwhelming majority opinion of those giving testimony regarding view planes is that it would interfere with their view plane and that was not acceptable.   To state categorically that it is just a matter of opinion implies that it’s closer to 50/50 than what it probably is —  at minimum 95/5.  To state “we cannot describe that impact as an irrevocable loss of visual resources” is laughable.  The view will be irrevocably lost.   Hawaiian spiritual practitioners facing the summit of Haleakalā each morning will be irretrievably injured by this injustice and their indigenous religious rights will be unjustly damaged.     This telescope can be built elsewhere, and that is what should happen.

Land Use/Archaeological:
The County of Maui prohibits any building over the height of 12 stories.  The ATST project apparently believes that it should be exempt from this law, because it is being built on ceded lands controlled by the University of Hawaii, a State entity.   At the same time, the DEIS implies that they are in compliance with all local and state land use laws and community plans.   The DEIS should state that if the project is not exempt, it would violate numerous county and local land use ordinances and guidelines.
This project could not be built in downtown Kahului, and it should not be able to be built on the top of Haleakalā.   The County of Maui enacted the 12 story limit for many important reasons, including under its police powers, and these same reasons should apply to this facility as well, especially in light of the recent seismic events around the Islands.
In Section 1.8, the DEIS implies that the proposed action conforms to the Upcountry community plans, and this is not so.   For example, the Makawao/Pukaluna/Kula Community Plan (enacted in 1996) prohibits buildings over 35 feet tall.  This facility would not fit within any of the exceptions therein and, therefore, is not in compliance.
The impact on the road from the Rangers Station to the summit is not addressed in the DEIS.  Who will be doing the repairs on this road and what other impacts are there?
The DEIS asserts that there is no mitigation anticipated or planned for archaeological resources.   What about the possible cave in the area named Anamakauahi?   Surely at such an important cultural, historical site there are other archaeological concerns as well that have not been addressed.
There is none or inadequate reference to the Hawaiian Mahele and land titles.   The issue of ceded lands in Hawaii has not been resolved and continues to be raised in litigation in state and federal courts, and it is irresponsible not to address this issue.   The lands could also be subject to reparation and/or rent fees due and owing to the Kingdom of Hawaii, but this is not addressed anywhere in the DEIS.   Notwithstanding the issue regarding whether Gov. Quinn actually had the right to give away these ceded lands, since neither he nor the State of Hawaii owned the lands, there is also an issue regarding the appropriate purpose of ceded lands .   As noted by the Office of Hawaiian Affairs in the comment in October 2005, these Public Trust lands may be used for educational purposes and for the betterment of Hawaiians.   The State has a Constitutional responsibility to “conserve and protect Hawaii’s natural beauty and all natural resources, including land, water, air, minerals and energy sources…All public natural resources are held in trust by the State for the benefit of the people.”  (Hawai’i State Constitution, Art. XI, Section 1). The state also has a Constitutional responsibility to “protect all rights, customarily and traditionally exercised for subsistence, cultural and religious purposes” possessed by Hawaiians.  (Hawai’i State Constitution, Art.. XII, Section 2)  These considerations, as required by the State Constitution, must be given precedent over scientific needs of the world at large, especially since the scientific needs can be met elsewhere.

Biological Resources:
It is inconceivable that a finding of less than significant could be anticipated in an area that abounds with unique Hawaiian plants and animals.  As noted by Art Medeiros, one of the most knowledgeable experts on this particular topic “[t]he mark this monolith would make on Maui would be significant and irrevocable….The quest for knowledge is beautiful, but its demands must be weighed against the other sacred and beautiful things of the limited area of Maui, aspects of our Hawaiian culture, the lives of unique native plants and animals and the grace of the clean lines of Haleakalā’s ethereal high Pacific mountain viewscapes.”
The effect on these resources could be quite significant.   Construction activity could cause death to the ‘ua’u; human proximity could cause them to abandon their burrows; construction would (not could) destroy hundreds of native plants; Nene would be affected by human proximity and also by potential pesticides and other contaminants, including but not limited to plastics and lead which they could ingest.  The assumption in the DEIS that the botanical resources would not be permanently affected should clearly be re-examined.
We will not address this subject in depth, since it will be covered in detail in comments by more knowledgeable Native Hawaiian practitioners, but it is noteworthy that although there are listed endangered species at the sites on Haleakalā, there are no listed endangered species at the alternative site at La Palma.   On the issues that could result in irreparable harm (such as vegetation and habitat, cultural resources, view planes, etc),  the DEIS appears to take the position that these can be mitigated easily enough.   On the other hand, the dust issue at La Palma appears to be based in part on inconvenience, addressing monetary concerns and the time it would take to rectify the problem.   Clearly some of the partners planning to use the facilities (such as the Department of Defense and Homeland Security) have enough funds to spend whatever money is necessary to take care of that issue and hire as many personnel as are needed, with no irreparable damage done to Haleakalā and its unique habitats.

Economic Concerns: 
The DEIS asserts that the ATST will bring economic gain to the County of Maui and State of Hawaii.   What is not addressed are the negative impacts to Maui and state economies.   As noted by the Association of Hawaiian Civic Clubs in its written comments, the construction of a 14 story telescope would destroy the pristine landscape of Haleakalā, which is a sacred cultural site, the unblemished beauty of which has been recorded for centuries in Hawaiian legends, chants and songs.   They further note that Native Hawaiians revere this site as a place of great mana, and that it is one of the most popular tourist destinations on Maui.    We agree with this esteemed Association and the Hawai’i Tourism Authority that well over half of Maui residents have listed “loss of Nature and open space” as a big problem on Maui.
Tourism is the economic life blood of Maui.  Aside from government jobs, the tourist industry accounts for more than 50% of the total personal income of Maui residents, more than construction, real estate, manufacturing, finance, and retail trade combined.  (DEIS 3-46, Table 3-8)    Maui has been designated the number one tourist designation island in the world.   It enjoys that distinction, in large part, due to its natural beauty and unspoiled vistas.   The summit of Haleakalā is the single most visited site on the island.   It does not require a leap of faith to conclude that any diminishment of Haleakalā is likely to have significant, adverse economic impact on the island and its people.  This aspect of the proposed project is not adequately addressed in the DEIS.   This type of impact was addressed in your comments about La Palma regarding the effect of the view plane on tourists there, but it is noticeably absent in your evaluation of Haleakalā.
Hawaii is a unique and special place in the world.  The Hawaii Economic Momentum Commission, appointed by the governor, issued a final report in December, 2005.  In that report, the Commission concluded that “the Hawaiian culture, including its value systems . . .  not only defines Hawaii, but is the only thing that distinguishes our islands from every other sea, sand and sun resort” in the world.  Trying to educate and familiarize visitors of the significance and beauty of the Hawaiian culture, while desecrating one of the most sacred of Hawaiian sites, is an incongruity that cannot be explained away with slick marketing brochures.  We cannot embrace the Hawaiian culture without first respecting it.

General Considerations:
Haleakalā is the Sacred House of the Sun.   The spiritual First Amendment rights of the Native Hawaiian people should trump any dust or sky brightness issues.   Clearly this telescope can be built elsewhere.   Over 70 sites were considered, and it is inconceivable that La Palma and Big Bear Lake could get to the top 3 sites if they were not viable.   Another possibility is that the telescope could be built in space, which was not even mentioned in the DEIS, although it is a clear alternative.  The fact that the Haleakalā sites may possibly have a few advantages in some areas should not be the deciding factor.   The cultural and religious issues at Haleakalā should be given the greatest consideration.   Not only are these rights protected by the United States and Hawaii Constitutions, but, more importantly, it is the righteous and correct decision to make under the circumstances.
Another issue not adequately address is the clean up and disposal of the project when it is no longer necessary.   Certainly, the current building(s) that have been abandoned (such as the former radio telescope site known as Reber Circle which goes back to the1950’s – and which interestingly enough was abandoned because it did not work) was not cleared out and the land was not returned to its natural habitat even though the facility was abandoned over half a century ago.  In fact, it has now been there so long it has historical significance.   There have also been voiced concerns from local residents who lived here during the first construction phases at Kolekole that trash was not handled responsibly at that time.
It is interesting to review the written comments contained in the DEIS.   The ones supporting the project are 99%  simply signatures on the exact same form letter with no personal comments or reasons for support.   On the other hand, many of the comments opposing the telescope are written from the heart and display a great deal of emotion.  A few examples of these:   “There are 70 other possible sites for this telescope…there is only one sacred Haleakalā…there can be no compromise…this site is sacred to the Native people of Hawaii—it must be preserved.”  “The “house of the Sun” is holy.   Would you build a 16 story telescope on the top of Notre Dame?  Some places on our precious planet must be singled out…Haleakalā is one of these places.   Please do not allow it to be dishonored.”   Those opposing this project speak out because they respect and honor Haleakalā – desecration is not inevitable and the project should be built elsewhere.   Those supporting the project are speaking about the need for scientific data – not scientific data limited to Haleakalā.   This data can be gathered on grounds that are not sacred.   This is an extremely important point.   The sacred summit of Haleakalā is limited to this particular site – the data is not.
As noted above, the references throughout that the “grounds are already disturbed by development” should be played down as well, because those facilities will apparently be taken down at the end of their service life.  If we keep building on this site, these significant impacts will never go away.   Allow this sacred ground to be returned to its natural state as quickly as possible, and stop further desecration now.   The prior damage can hopefully be remedied; if it continues it cannot.   You did not consider Machu Picchu or Mt. Zion as plausible sites for this facility, and rightly so.   Haleakalā is just as sacred.   Please act accordingly.

Mahalo for your consideration.

Maui Group Sierra Club


By Kathleen S. McDuff, Vice Chairman

The Hawaiians observed and used the stars to navigate their way safely throughout Oceania.   Hokule’a, Hawai’i’s zenith star, Hokupa’a (the North Star) and the peaks of Mauna Kea and Haleakala were used to navigate their way safely into the ‘Alenuihaha and ‘Alalakeiki channels.    The Kahuna Kilokilo (a priest who would watch the skies for omens) studied the sky from the summit of Haleakala.

The subject lands are Section 5(b) lands of the Hawaii Admission Act (Act of March 18, 1959, Pub. L. 86-3, 73 Stat.4). j  As such these are ceded lands, and per § 5(b) and the income derived therefrom, “shall be managed and disposed of for one or more” of the five listed purposes.   The Act lists the five purposes as:  for the support of the public schools and other public educational institutions, for the betterment of the conditions of native Hawaiians,…for the development of farm and home ownership on as widespread a basis as possible, for the making of public improvements, and for the provision of lands for public trust.