Sierra Club Testimony

Haleakala Telescope Testimony

Comments re SDEIS for

ATST Project on Mount Haleakala

Submitted to

Dr. Craig Foltz, National Science Foundation

OEQC Hawai’i State Dept of Health

Mr. Mike Maberry, UH IfA

Dr. Charlie Fein, KC Environmental, Inc.

Submitted by

Kathleen McDuff Individually and

for Sierra Club Maui Group

June 14, 2009

Please accept these comments as a supplement to the comments that were originally submitted in writing in October 2006. The comments that were originally submitted will not be repeated here but are equally pertinent to this issue.



Introduction 3

1. Haleakala is not the only viable site for this project but it is the 5

only site with cultural and historic preservation concerns

2. The effect of this project on the ahus and on Hawai’ian spirituality 7

would be devastating and would irreparably interfere with

Native Hawai’ian Practitioners’ First Amendment rights

3. Construction activities and excavation would cause irreparable 11

harm to Native Hawai’ian cultural beliefs and practices and

could cause irreparable harm to endangered species, the

Maui visitor industry and protected historical sites

4. The operational noise and the construction noise would 12

cause irreparable harm to Native Hawai’ian Practitioners

and could cause irreparable harm to federally protected

endangered species and the Maui visitor industry

5. This project is not in compliance with state and county laws and 15

community plans and permit applications should not be approved

6. This is a volcano – it will erupt again in the future – 16

why wasn’t this important fact considered in the EIS process?

7. Long term personnel will be brought in from the mainland and 17

the few short term jobs that might be given to locals will not

offset the major adverse long-term and/or permanent effects to Maui

8. The visitors survey is seriously flawed 18

9. The view planes to and from sacred Haleakala will be irretrievably 18

damaged for the lifetime of the telescope, which will irreparably

harm the rights of Native Hawai’ian Practitioners as well as Maui

residents and the visitor industry on Maui

10. You failed to properly and effectively comply with the 106 process 20

which is federally mandated for this project in order to protect

historical and archeological properties

11. The SDEIS and NSF failed to properly consider the Hawai’ian 22

ceded land issue and Native Hawai’ian rights

Conclusion 23

On Behalf of the Sacred Mountain Haleakala

Hawai’ian Protocol for Sacred Places

E Ui No Ka ‘Ae

Ask Permission,

E Mahalo Aku

Give Thanks,

E Komo Me Ka Hoano

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 Haleakala is sacred, not only to the Kanaka Maoli (Native Hawai’ians), but to the world at large. The beautiful painting above comes from the website of Sacred Sites, on which Haleakala is listed as one of the most sacred sites on Mother Earth. On the website Sacred Lands, Haleakala is called a holy site or wahi pana. The status of sacred Haleakala is listed on this website as “Threatened”, due to the proposed ATST telescope that is being planned on its summit. It is noted on this site of sacred places around the world:

The summit and crater area of Haleakala is a sacred site to Native Hawai’ians, who have always been against construction of the observatories. In the early 1960s, Hawai’ians led peaceful protests at the state capitol in Honolulu, opposing the observatories and insisting that the mountain belonged to everyone—not just astronomers. Their demands went unheard.

Their demands went unheard.” Unfortunately, this is one of the familiar stories of the Kanaka Maoli. Their demands have gone unheard since their kingdom was illegally overthrown in 1893. It is time for this to cease. The people of Hawai’i are unique. They should not be lumped together with the Native American tribes, which are specifically given protection in the U.S. Constitution. The Hawai’ian people do not have a tribal council that speaks for them and which you, by law, are required to confer with. They must be dealt with differently and so far that has not occurred.

Hawai’ians are very spiritual people. The sacred ‘aina (land) on which you are proposing to build your huge structure is a living being; it is their ancestor. The people who have been attending the 106 meetings on behalf of NSF acknowledge that they do not understand the cultural practices and beliefs of the Kanaka Maoli; as a result, the 106 process you have been conducting has not worked. In order for the decision makers of NSF to understand the significance of what the construction of this 143’+ structure will have on the Native Hawai’ians and their cultural practices, SOMETHING ELSE needs to happen. Your current 106 process is insufficient. The Native Hawai’ians are part of a Kingdom that was taken away from them over one hundred years ago, with very little remorse being shown. In the Apology Resolution that Congress enacted in 1993 to apologize for this illegal overthrow, it was acknowledged that

the Native Hawai’ian people are determined to preserve, envelope and transmit to future generations their ancestral territory, and their cultural identity in accordance with their own spiritual and traditional beliefs, customs, practices, language and social institutions.

Placing the wants and desires of scientists (who can build their structure in a different location where there would not be an adverse effect to the culture and archeology of that area) over the desires of the Native Hawai’ian people who rightly demand that their sacred mountain not be further desecrated is clearly not following this directive by the members of Congress who chose to honor the Hawai’ians and their culture in an effort to reconcile the injustice done to them 100 years prior. It is past time for the Hawai’ian culture, the Hawai’ian people, and the Hawai’ian ‘aina to come first.


One interesting change from the draft EIS (DEIS) and the Supplemental Draft EIS (SDEIS) is that now it is being claimed that the Haleakala site(s) is the only site out of over 70 other sites that satisfies the criteria for this project. This is interesting because both in the DEIS and other documentation from the website of NSF it has been stated that all three final sites were excellent candidates. It was noted by the New Jersey Science and Technology Institute in an article on their website (Press release 973-596-3436, dated May 20, 2009 and titled World’s Largest Telescope at NJIT’s Big Bear Captures Sun’s Magnetic Field Better) that Big Bear Solar Observatory (BBSO), the world’s largest telescope located at Big Bear Lake, CA (one of the three final proposed sites for the ATST where there are no cultural or archaeological issues),

is one of the premier land-based facilities supported by federal funding.    “We are already seeing images offering a better understanding of the Sun,” said Goode. “With this instrument we should be able to have a better understanding of dynamic storms and space weather—which can have dramatic effects on Earth.”    The new instrument has three times the aperture of the old telescope. It represents a significant advance in high-resolution observations of the Sun, since it has the largest aperture of any solar telescope in existence, said Goode.  Since it is an off-axis telescope, there is no part of the sunlight blocked by the telescope.  Other pluses include a marvelous location– high in a Southern California mountain lake.  

Obviously, the ATST could be built at Big Bear Lake. They have just chosen not to. Serious questions remain regarding the scoring of the three final sites. For example, at Big Bear, CA, a site which received a “fail” designation for “seeing” characteristics, the testing was so flawed that less than 25% of the data sought to be evaluated was even gathered and analyzed.

. . . if the seeing monitor would have been operational every day from sunrise to sunset 4,070,000 individual measurements could have been obtained. However, the number

of data entries for BBSO is about 1,430,000. A substantial fraction of the missing data is related to the aforementioned observer profile. Other contributions are from complete

system failures (July and November 2003) and bad weather conditions. Considering all data without a “failed ShaBaR” error flag about 910,000 data points could be used in this study. This number, however, is further reduced by about 60,000 data

points, since some S-DIMM data were not properly transferred to the control computer.

The Local Seeing Environment at Big Bear Solar Observatory, Angelo Verdoni and Carsten Denker1, New Jersey Institute of Technology, Center for Solar-Terrestrial Research

This clearly does not present the profile of a serious scientific study. Likewise, the proposed La Palma site (which finished 2nd in the testing) was tested for two years and no potential cultural or archaeological problems were found there. Interestingly, at La Palma it was noted that the view plane of a specific peak called the Cumbrecita, which was a popular tourist attraction because of numerous hiking trails and scenic viewpoints – like Haleakala — was so significant to the people of the Canary Islands that it was determined during the testing process that this view plane must be protected. In deference to this conclusion, the proposed site of the telescope was relocated downhill. What a shame that you could not understand that the view plane of Haleakala is just as important to the Native Hawai’ians!

It was noted that the La Palma site offers excellent high elevation “seeing” capabilities. Since La Palma finished ahead of Big Bear Lake in the testing process, and since Big Bear Lake can clearly be used for studying the sun flares, storms and weather – given that it already is – the La Palma site is a viable site. The fact that there may be a few less annual hours of sky brightness is something that can be worked out by the scientific community. At least one of the brilliant technological minds from our scientific community should be able to solve this glitch. Again, Haleakala is the preferred site, so you have chosen to say that it is the only site that will work. This is disingenuous – we need more honesty and more transparency. You are asking the Hawai’ian people to “mitigate” their spirituality even though it could destroy their practice, but you are not willing to mitigate your preferred site with your second or third choices. That is what could be termed as arrogance. You should also be straightforward when discussing how important this project might be to the scientific world, since you have apparently failed to disclose that similar information has already been gathered and is still being gathered elsewhere and still has not been put to use.


There is insufficient information provided here regarding the effect upon the two ahus that have been set aside for Native Hawai’ian practitioners. First, from a personal point of view as a person who practices Native Hawai’ian spirituality up on the summit, the noise generated by the current projects is already very, very distracting. I was up on the summit for sunset for a group ceremony recently, and we were unable to do our meditations as they were meant to be because of the noise from some generator or fan at one of the buildings currently there. The noise we heard is before you add the operational noise from a building that will be much larger and that requires a huge air conditioning system and large fans to help keep it cool. Even though this was mentioned several times during the meetings and consultations and the written comments in 2006, the SDEIS has failed to address the impact this huge structure will have upon the ahus themselves. How can one meditate and practice spirituality in accordance with a tradition that integrates vibrations, meditations, prayers, communication with nature and spiritual energy and view planes, as well as communication with ancestors and spiritual beings, with this monstrous, noisy structure towering over you, as it will be at Pa’ele Ku Ai I Ka Moku. You infer that this is minimized by the fact that there is an unobstructed view outward from the mountain, but this shows how little you know about Hawai’ian spirituality and is a clear example of why the 106 process failed. This has been explained to you, but either you do not listen or you are not able to understand. Either way, the Hawai’ian people have not been represented as they are required to be during this federally mandated process.

Furthermore, as I mentioned during the 106 consultations, the energy on the top of the mountain will be irreversibly damaged by the construction of this structure. I presented this statement during the 106 comments, but since it was not transcribed for the record, the person making the decision as to whether the funding will be granted would not be able to hear it. For that reason, I am reiterating it for the record herein.

I am a Native American Spiritual Practitioner and I also practice Native Hawai’ian spirituality and have for many, many years. I am what is known by my people as a Dream Walker. I am able to journey back and forth between the physical and spiritual worlds. I have been very blessed by the spirits of this beautiful ‘aina and have been fortunate enough to have been gifted many visions from the ancients of this land as well. One of the gifts that I have received from these beautiful spirits was a very interesting vision. I was transported up to the summit of Haleakala and shown by the ancients what the kahunas felt when they were conducting their spiritual practices up on the sacred summit. I could literally see and feel the web that connected the different heiaus around the islands (including all of Maui Nui and the peaks of the island of Hawai’i) to the top of the summit. I experienced the incredible force of the energy that this web created and it was beyond description. My senses will never be the same. Then I was shown what that energy felt like today, after the buildings that are on the top of the summit have been constructed and after many of the heiaus have been destroyed, and the energy was much different. Much less powerful and a much different feeling. Then I was shown what the energy would be like after further desecration to the sacred summit – when this large 14 story telescope is constructed shadowing over the ahus — and I felt virtually nothing in comparison to what I experienced before. It felt like the Mountain was withdrawing. He was tired of fighting the negative energy on his summit and was very disappointed. At that moment, I was brought back down to my luncheon in Kahului, a much different person, with a lot to share with my companions. I hope you are beginning to understand that spirituality cannot be mitigation. You can’t put building after building (getting larger every time) up on a sacred mountain where spiritual practitioners go to pray and practice at a site where their ancestors sanctified the ‘aina over hundreds of years and created the energy for a special practice for themselves and their descendents, and then assume that you have not desecrated this holy, blessed site. It will never be the same. The desecration must stop – and it must stop now while there is still hope of bringing back that wonderful, special energy for Hawai’ian spiritual practitioners. Allowing Hawai’ian spiritual practitioners an ahu amidst the buildings that are violating the very spirit of the ‘aina is not the pono way. Stopping the desecration of this living mountain is pono. Allow the ancient energy to come back. Allow Native Hawai’ian Practitioners to reconnect with their ‘aina and with their ancestors in the way it was meant to be.

You cannot build another structure upon this mountain and not interfere irreparably with the energy of this sacred mountain that is an integral part of Hawai’ian spirituality. I have heard from other Hawai’ian practitioners who say that their practice will be adversely affected to the point where they won’t even want to go up to practice anymore. Native Hawai’ian Practitioners should never have to go elsewhere to do their practice and they should never have to sacrifice or limit their own spiritual practices. This is their home. Haleakala is their ancestor. Practicing their spirituality in the way it is meant to be practiced is their right. Directly interfering with their First Amendment rights to practice their faith in the way it was meant to be and has been practiced traditionally for centuries is not only illegal – more importantly, under the Hawai’ian culture – it is not pono.

This sacred summit has been sanctified by Maui himself, by the goddess Pele, and by the Kahunas and the Kupunas from ancient times through the present. It is a place where the tones of ancient prayer are balanced within the vortex of energy for spiritual manifestations. It should be honored by all. To take any action other than avoidance will irreversibly interfere with the United States and Hawai’ian Constitutionally protected spiritual rights of the indigenous people of Hawai’i. First Amendment religious rights are allowed to be absolute just because of their nature.

If this project is approved and construction is started, Kanaka Maoli Practitioners will be prohibited from experiencing the full practice of their spirituality. I challenge the statement in the SDEIS on page 4-9 that although the project would have a major/adverse and long-term effect on cultural resources, it would have no effect upon the survival of Hawai’ian cultural practices and beliefs. It was further claimed that the proposed “mitigation” would lessen the major adverse effects on the Hawaiian culture to only “moderate.” On what evidence do you base this conclusion? Please provide us with documentation of the technical data you used to formulate this absurd deduction. It appears to be mere speculation that has no basis. It was acknowledged by the representatives at the 106 meetings that there are no Hawai’ians who work within the NSF or even within the Advisory Council for Historic Preservation. It was also apparent that none of the NSF representatives present at the meetings had any real understanding of the Hawai’ian culture or Hawai’ian spirituality, and when they were questioned on this by a Kanaka Maoli Kupuna, the response was that one of the objectives of the meeting was to try to obtain some understanding of Hawai’ian beliefs and culture. How, based upon your total lack of understanding of the spiritual and cultural beliefs of this indigenous culture, can you determine that your proposed “mitigation” matters would lessen the cultural adverse effects to “moderate”, when you have been told again and again by Kanaka Maoli that this is not so — you CANNOT mitigate spirituality.

Anytime you interfere with Hawai’ian spiritual practices and prohibit the practitioners from practicing them in any way other than the way they were meant to be practiced, you are absolutely interfering with the survival of Hawai’ian cultural practices and beliefs in a major adverse long term (i.e. permanent) way. If this project is built, Native Hawai’ian Practitioners will be adversely affected the rest of their lives – they will not be able to practice their spirituality as it was meant to be at this sacred place where their ancestors conducted and taught prayers; where they connected to Wakea and Papa; and where they wove the vortex connecting all of the heiaus of Maui and even Hawai’i to this sacred summit where numerous Hawai’ian gods and goddesses are said to reside.


You state in the SDEIS that a minimum of 250 truckloads or 125,550 cu. feet of sacred stone and native soil will be bulldozed up and relocated. Just digging into the lava rock, which is believed by many Native Hawai’ians to be the bones of Pele, is an affront to Hawai’ian spirituality. You may not move even one Pohaku (stone) without first asking permission of the stone itself, which is a living entity. If permission is not granted, you do not move the stone. To bring in a bulldozer to dig up and relocate 125,550 cu. feet from a sacred summit is an insult to the Hawai’ian culture. Your proposed “mitigation” of limiting this outrageous act to certain times of the day does not even begin to offset the offense. There is no nexus between the two. Again, this clearly shows a lack of understanding of Hawai’ian beliefs and culture. The land clearing, the demolition, the excavation, the grading/leveling, further digging into the ‘aina to bury electrical wires and cables, and the subsequent relocation of the soil and Pohaku from a sacred summit are all contrary to Hawai’ian culture and beliefs. Placing 21 caissons into sacred ground, bringing in three to five cranes well over 153 feet in height, and pouring cement onto and into sacred ground — all of this irreparably harms a living ancestor of the Hawai’ian people. Moreover, all of this activity irreversibly interferes with practitioners trying to meditate and practice in very close proximity. It is irreversible because spirituality must be practiced in the time and in the manner in which it was meant to be – you cannot make up in 2014 what you missed in 2011, because what you missed in 2011 may be gone forever. Hawai’ian spirituality is not just offering prayers to a Supreme Being. It is much, much more.

In addition to the cultural issues, which are paramount in this case, at least 250 over-size capacity dump truck loads (it could be more), many more regular large trucks, delivery vehicles, van shuttles and passenger vehicles would travel the roadways leading to the construction site during the construction phase. The Park entrance station will have to be moved during the period to accommodate the huge structures that would be brought in. Not only is this historic roadway subject to potential harm during the construction period, but the 1.7 million visitors as well as kama’aina (native born) who travel up to Haleakala National Park and to the summit each year will be adversely affected in a major cumulative way. Visitors come up to the summit all day long – not just in the middle of the night to see the sunrise. This has not been addressed effectively`1111.

There are endangered species that reside within Haleakala National Park. This is where the ‘ua’u have their burrows that they return to each year and incubate their young. There are many silversword plants along the roadway going up to the summit and on the summit itself. When I was there last week, I was amazed at the number that were blooming, and I could only see the ones that were in close proximity to the roadway – very near to the shoulder of the road that will be required to be widened in order to bring all the equipment up for construction. The nene are able to explore throughout the park and these beautiful spirits are always running across the roadway. The huge trucks and numerous vehicles coming and going will clearly present a danger to these endangered beings – there are only about 300 living nenes at this time – we cannot afford to lose even one.


A related issue to the construction problems is the noise issue. As noted above, the operational noise from the existing buildings (generators, air conditioning systems and exhaust fans) as well as traffic and other stationary sources are already causing harm to the practice of Native Hawai’ian Practitioners. The additional operating noise from the proposed ATST will magnify this many times over. One possible mitigation proposed in the SDEIS was to limit the noise to certain times of the day. Native Hawai’ian spirituality is practiced for all of your life, all times of the day, all days of the year. It is not limited to day more than night or winter more than summer. It is affected, however, by where and how you practice. Practicing at sacred sites such as Haleakala is a vital part of the rites that practitioners perform. Quiet and solitude are also essential components of the practice. Chants, meditations, and deep reflections and journeys are also integral parts of the tradition, but they cannot transpire if outside noise is interfering with your consciousness.

During the long construction phase, the heavy machinery, equipment and trucks, the excavation of the sacred soil and stone, the operation of the crane, the assembling of the structure, and the coming and going of the trucks and the personnel and other construction noises (which will be huge) will cumulatively result in Native Hawai’ian Practitioners being unable to practice in a meaningful way. How can you communicate with nature in a meditative state with a bulldozer excavating soil or grading nearby? It is stated in the SDEIS that there are “no noise-sensitive human receptors at HO”, so presumably, there shouldn’t be a noise problem on the site itself. Where exactly do you think the Hawai’ian ahus are located? Any noise other than nature is an intrusion upon spiritual practices so Native Hawaii’ian Practitioners are actually extra sensitive “noise sensitive human receptors” and should be treated accordingly.

It is also ridiculous to state that a visitor standing at Red Hill is not within the area that will be affected in a major adverse way by the machinery noise of a bulldozer or other machinery, and thus concluding that the effect to visitors to the summit would be minor and short term. (Although in another section of the SDEIS –page 4-10 – you state that visitors standing on Red Hill, which is only 2500 feet away, would be affected in a long term way, while still limiting it to minor.) The construction phase is not short term for a visitor who comes to Maui for a two week vacation and has it marred by construction noises permeating their entire (and perhaps only) visit to the summit. What a terrible experience! Did you ask in your “visitors survey” whether the noise from a bulldozer a few hundred feet away would interfere with their experience at the summit? I was up at the summit recently and I asked visitors there at that time this question and every response I received was that it would indeed have an adverse effect upon their experience. In fact, one man who had come 3,000 miles with his girl friend to propose to her on the top of the summit that day said that even someone talking would have lessened the experience, much less if a bulldozer started up in the middle of his proposal.

Limiting the noise-generating activities from thirty minutes prior to sunset and thirty minutes after sunrise will not mitigate major adverse impacts down to minor adverse as you have inferred, since there will be people suffering from the noises all day. Even at the critical sunrise and sunset peak times you are considering only limiting the noises above 82 dBA – a number that you have arbitrarily determined to be the criteria. This number seems quite high to me, and I assume to you as well, since you also determined that noise level changes above 20dBA are “major”. Red Hill is 2,500 feet away from the construction site – what about the Native Hawai’ian Practitioners who will be conducting spiritual practices next to the site. If the noise 2,500 feet away is considered to have a major effect upon the people visiting the overlook, this same noise immediately adjacent to where the Kanaka Maoli are trying to practice would be prohibitive.

Further, drawing a conclusion that since that the roadways already have personnel traffic on them, then the increased vehicle traffic will only have a negligible adverse effect on ambient noise is not realistic. The construction trucks alone negate this. It also appears that the effect of noise upon the endangered species of the area is being minimized. The ‘ua’u are in their 1,000 known burrows between February and November of each year, not just during the April 20 to July 15 incubation period when the “mitigation” is being considered. If they are disturbed from their burrows prior to this time, there will be no incubation, and there will be no future birds. Construction of this telescope could and most probably will disturb one of the last two remaining major nesting colonies of the Hawai’ian petrel, which is on the brink of extinction. I repeat for emphasis because this is very important — the summit of Haleakala is home to one of only two major nesting colonies of the ‘ua’u left on earth (which consists of less than 1,000 birds). Vibrations and noise from the construction of the ATST could cause nesting burrows to collapse. The huge dump trucks, the cement trucks that will be going up and down the historic roadway, and the excavation of the summit itself during the construction phase will also have a major adverse effect upon these birds.


Your statement that the ATST project is consistent with the goals of state, county and community plans is incorrect. The Makawao-Pukalani-Kula Upcountry Community Plan states on Page 32 Paragraph 8, that no building may be built over 35′ except for public use. Paragraph 8 is not an advisory statement, but an enforceable requirement. The Upcountry plan also states that a comprehensive Haleakala summit master plan needs to be implemented in order to promote orderly and sensitive development, which is compatible with the natural and native Hawai’ian cultural environment of Haleakala National Park.

Maui County regulations prohibit construction of a building 14 stories high anywhere in the County. The project is clearly not consistent with the goals of Maui County. Additionally, after conducting numerous studies and hearing public comments from people throughout the island over a three year period, the General Plan Advisory Committee (a twenty-five member citizen panel appointed by the either the Maui County Mayor or County Council to set out recommendations for the Maui County General Plan for the County of Maui for the next 20 years) adopted a county wide policy plan that includes language to “immediately provide and encourage laws to preserve and enhance the summit of Haleakala with no new buildings.” [emphasis added] (Policy No. 5031) Finally, there is no comprehensive summit plan for Haleakala that protects the mountain’s natural and cultural resources, which is required by Hawai’i state law. This telescope is not supported by the community plan for the area; it is not supported by the county regulations; it is not supported by Hawai’i State law; and it is not supported by the community at large. Construction of this project demonstrates a total lack of regard for state and county law, ignores established planning practices, and will have a chilling effect on the enforcement of zoning laws in the future.


Described as “She-Who-Shapes-The-Sacred-Land” in ancient Hawai’ian chants, Pele is the goddess of fire and volcanoes. She is passionate, volatile and capricious. She was born of the female spirit Haumea (Hina) and the male spirit Kane-hoa-lani, who ascended from the supreme beings Papa and Wakea. Although she is currently residing in the Halema’uma’u crater of Kilauea, her previous home was here on Maui where she created sacred Haleakala. It was on Maui that Pele’s body was torn apart and the fragments heaped up to form the hill called Ka’iwi-o’Pele (The bones of Pele) near Kauiki Hill on the right side of Hana Bay. She has strong ties to Maui and most certainly to her crater Haleakala. Scientists call this sacred volcano “dormant” because her last eruption was in 1790. The term “dormant” simply means that a volcano is not currently erupting. The term itself does not provide any predictability of future activity. But note, the Soufrière Hills volcano on the Caribbean island of Montserrat was thought to be extinct before activity resumed in 1995. Similarly, Mount Vesuvius was considered extinct before it destroyed Pompeii in an eruption in 79 A.D. According to the USGS (United States Geological Survey) website, Haleakala “has witnessed at least ten eruptions in the past 1,000 years, and numerous eruptions have occurred there in the past 10,000 years. Thus, Haleakala’s long eruptive history and recent activity indicate that the volcano will erupt in the future.” See // There is no mention in the SDEIS of a possible volcanic eruption as a natural hazard, even though that must be considered before you build on this sacred summit. There is a scientific system of classification known as Cladistics, which has utility in hazard assessment for sensitive facilities planned on or near known volcanoes. The SDEIS lacks this crucial evaluation. You must not ignore Pele, especially since you are blatantly disrespecting her and her creation by proposing to excavate and relocate her sacred bones on the summit during the construction phase of this telescope.


Although it has been a common talk story for the local proponents of the project that this project will bring many jobs to Maui, the facts state otherwise. Your 4.12 section acknowledges that the 25-30 key technical personnel that will work on the project will be brought in from the mainland, and that any local employment would be minor and short term. I see nothing in this to benefit Maui in a way that would offset the huge negative effects to our environment, our culture, our ‘aina, our historical sites, or our communities.


As noted in the SDEIS, Haleakala National Park (HALE) has “indicated that [the visitors survey you included in the SDEIS] is significantly flawed and likely biased and there are significant technical errors in the instrument and related reporting.” HALE further asserted that “the conclusions are based on an insufficiently designed and administered survey.” See 3-46. I concur and maintain that this survey should not even be considered in the Final EIS. If you do insist on including it, however, then you must also include the potential impact of your proposal that was part of this survey to allow those interested in touring the ATST facility to do so, which apparently is up to 75% of the 1.7 million visitors that come to the Park each year, as set out in the survey. Where is the impact study on the effect these people touring the facility will have on the noise, on the land, on the Kanaka Maoli Practitioners trying to practice at the ahus, on the parking lot, on the traffic, etc. You cannot make a bold statement that most visitors would not “care” if the facility is built based upon information gained from this flawed survey. Furthermore, you should not be able to use such faulty reasoning as a basis to try to offset the clear major adverse long-term effect this project will have on the Maui visitor industry, which is already declining.


One million, seven hundred thousand visitors a year come to visit Haleakala. They visit Pa Ka’oao (White Hill) and they visit Pu’u Ula’ula (Red Hill), as well as the crater itself. The proposed telescope would be clearly visible from the Pu’u Ula’ula Overlook as well as most places in Haleakala National Park, including the roadway going up to the summit, beginning at the entry station. The three to five enormous cranes that will be used for constructing the massive building over a four year period will be visible from the crater itself. For Kanaka Maoli Practitioners practicing at the ahus, this enormous towering feature will even interfere with the view plane up to the stars at night — how ironic since you claim that the telescope is consistent with Hawai’ian culture and honors Hawai’ian astronomers who navigated by the stars. Prehistoric Polynesian navigators knew the star Arcturus as Hokule’a, the “Star of Joy.” Hokule’a is the Zenith Star of the Hawai’ian Islands today and is so important to the Native Hawai’ian culture that the voyaging canoe that was built to reconstruct the original Ancient Polynesians’ journey to Hawai’i is also named Hokule’a. If this telescope is constructed, practitioners at the ahus who look up to Hokule’a as part of their tradition will have their view interfered with by the towering telescope.

The telescope will also obstruct the view plane of members of the community in many other places on the island. From Ma’alaea Harbor to the Hawai’ian Homelands to many other populated areas of Maui, the residents of Maui who look up to the summit of Haleakala for their sunrise and sunset prayers will have a huge white 14 story structure stick up at the center of their view plane. As noted in the SDEIS, based upon the overwhelming testimony presented by the community, there is a necessity for people to have an unimpeded view plane from mountain to ocean, particularly in the context of ceremonial activities. This essential view plane will be irreparably harmed if the ATST is constructed.  

In these tough economic times our visitor industry is suffering greatly, and how can we allow anything to be built that will have a “major adverse long term effect” (in the words of the SDEIS) on the visitors coming to our island. How can we allow anything to interfere with the view plane of one of the most sacred mountains on Earth? As acknowledged in the SDEIS, there is no mitigation possible for the loss of view plane. As noted above, the view plane for the mountain at La Palma was important enough to preserve – why can’t the same be said of Haleakala? It seems as though you have little or no respect for our sacred mountain, and this is shameful! Haleakala should be treated with the respect it so rightly deserves. Mitigation should be practiced by the science industry by placing the project elsewhere.


The summit of Haleakala is recognized as a very sacred place for the Kanaka Maoli. It is thought of as the Piko (navel), the center of Maui Nui O Kama (the greater Maui). The Hawai’ians consider the lava, cinders, and stones to be the sacred bones of Pele.

As noted in the SDEIS, there are several reasons why the summit of Haleakala is a cultural resource in and of itself. It is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) in several different categories. It is eligible as a “Traditional Cultural Property” (TCP) through consultation with State Historic Preservation Division (SHPD) under Criterion “A” for its association with the cultural landscape of Maui as reflected in the number of known uses, oral history, mele and legends surrounding Haleakala. The attributes ascribed for Criterion A as noted in the SDEIS include

(1) its consideration by Kanaka Maoli and many people throughout the world as a place exhibiting spiritual power;

(2) its significance as a traditional cultural place because of practice – for those who live and visit here, the summit is a place of reflection and rejuvenation;

(3) the mo’olelo and oli surrounding the summit present a cluster of stories suggesting the significance of Haleakala as a TCP;

(4) its reputation as a place of healing; and

(5) the remarkable “experience of place” associated with the summit.

The summit is also eligible under Criterion “C” because it is an example of a resource type, a natural summit, a source for both traditional materials and sacred uses.

There are too many archeological sites and resources to list here (doesn’t that tell you a story in and of itself), but please note that the burial sites, petroglyphs, platforms, trail segments, temporary shelters, cairns, and other features also qualify the summit for importance under Criterions “A”, “D”, and “E”. How can you even consider desecrating such an historically sensitive property?

Due to the VAST historic nature of the summit of Haleakala, section 106 requirements for protecting historic properties apply. These requirements have not been met on this project. The NSF is required to evaluate the property for significance, access whether the project will have adverse effects on this historic property and determine whether the adverse effects can be addressed through avoidance, minimization and/or mitigation. As the personnel present at the meetings were repeatedly told during the 106 process, you can not mitigate the spirituality of the Kanaka Maoli. Avoidance is the only answer for this project. The summit of Halekala is sacred to the people of Hawai’i for many, many reasons that are interrelated to their Constitutionally protected spiritual and cultural practice, and this very important fact has been repeatedly ignored by the NSF. This premise is clear because repeatedly during the 106 process, after heartrending comments were offered in an attempt to help those present understand why any action on this land other than avoidance was contrary to Hawai’ian cultural beliefs, the response continually was “what can you propose that would mitigate that concern?” The Native Hawai’ian community clearly stated (again and again) that there is nothing that can mitigate the construction of this project on the sacred summit of Halekala.

See, also reasons set out more fully in the Introduction and in Section 2 herein, as to why the 106 process as implemented thus far is not in compliance with federally required procedures that must be followed in order to protect historic properties.



There is no clear title to the lands on which this project is proposed, because these lands originally belonged to the Hawai’ian Kingdom until they were illegally turned over to the United States during the 1898 annexation. The nearly 1.8 million acres of land that were originally turned over were then passed into state possession when Hawai’i officially became a U.S. state in 1959; however, proper ownership of this land has still never been fully addressed. As noted in the Congressional Apology Resolution of 1993, neither the Native Hawai’ian people of Hawai’i nor their sovereign government ever consented to or received compensation for the illegal appropriation of the lands that belonged to the Kingdom of Hawai’i. This resolution further acknowledges that the indigenous Hawai’ian people never directly relinquished their claims to their inherent sovereignty as a people or over their national land to the United States, either through their monarchy or through a plebiscite or referendum. The referendum recognizes categorically that the health and well-being of the Native Hawai’ian people is intrinsically tied to their deep feelings and attachment to the land and recognizes that “the Native Hawai’ian people are determined to preserve, develop and transmit to future generations their ancestral territory, and their cultural identity in accordance with their own spiritual and traditional beliefs, customs, practices, language and social instructions.”

There is no such acknowledgment in your SDEIS, because you do not understand or appreciate all that is integrated into Native Hawai’ian culture and beliefs. There is no provision or discussion in the SDEIS of the potential impact of being evicted from the site after the ceded land issue is finally decided in the courts. This is a clear error and omission that could have a huge bearing on the project itself and is absolutely something that must be considered by the NSF before a decision is made regarding whether to fund this project or not.


For numerous reasons, many of which have been noted herein and in my written comments to the DEIS in 2006, the only viable option for this project is to build it elsewhere. If you try to construct it on the sacred summit of Haleakala, such action

  • would illegally prohibit the exercise of Native Hawai’ian First Amendment rights
  • would cause irreparable harm to a federally recognized and world-renown historic site
  • would irreparably harm the Native Hawai’ian people of Hawai’i
  • would permanently interfere with the survival of Hawai’ian cultural practices and beliefs
  • could cause irreparable harm to federally protectived endangered species
  • could cause the visitor industry (an integral part of the Maui economy) to decline irreparably
  • could irreparably harm an historic roadway
  • could cause irreparable harm to archeological features intertwined with Hawai’ian culture and beliefs
  • could end up covered by lava when the volcano next erupts
  • could, after spending over $160,000,000, be evicted from the site after the ceded lands issue is decided by the courts (which it will be).

The righteous (pono) way to handle this dilemma is to build the project at one of the other sites or in space, where it should have been built to begin with. Too much thought was given during this process to satisfying the needs of the scientists requesting the funding and too little thought was given to the needs, beliefs and way of life of the Hawai’ian people. It is clear that no one from the NSF, the UH IfA, or the people preparing the DEIS gave serious consideration to the spiritual and cultural beliefs and needs of the Hawai’ian people. If they had, they would have realized the totally devastating effect such a project would have on the Kanaka Maoli and, more importantly, on their living ancestor, the sacred mountain Haleakala, on whose behalf I humbly submit these comments. Now that you are aware of the irreparable damage it will cause, please do the right thing.

Submitted with the sincere hope that this message will reach your heart as well as your mind.

Kathleen McDuff