By Peter Sur
HILO — The state Board of Land and Natural Resources voted unanimously yesterday to approve the Mauna Kea Comprehensive Management Plan, but a half-dozen requests for a contested case hearing cast a cloud over its implementation.
The motion to approve the 299-page document was made without debate among board members, immediately after they returned from a 30-minute executive session, surprising some people who had stepped out of the meeting room for a while.
In approving the plan, board members added several conditions, most notably that the University of Hawaii had to develop four "sub-plans" within a year for approval by the land board, or before the next conservation district use application is granted, whichever is earlier.
The sub-plans have to address public access, natural resources, cultural resources and the decommissioning of telescopes.
Other conditions include:
— The UH Board of Regents is responsible for implementing the plan, subject to oversight by the BLNR.
— Regents shall provide the BLNR with the status of each of the sub-plan and management recommendations within one year and shall continue to do so every year.
— Regents, and then the BLNR, shall approve any amendments to the plan.
— Regents acknowledge that the BLNR has not delegated any authority to the university with respect to land use approvals, leasing or public access.
— Within one year, or before a conservation district use application is issued, regents shall present for approval to the BLNR a management and implementation framework for any project developments considered within the university-leased lands.
"The reason why I voted for it," Chairwoman Laura Thielen said of the plan, "is it sets in place management steps. And the conditions the board added require the university to move forward with some specific issues that the public raised during the testimony."
The regents will discuss supporting the plan at their meeting Thursday on Oahu.
The cost of implementing the plan has been estimated at about $1.5 million a year, and UH President David McClain said he was "committed to providing what's necessary for the implementation of the plan."
Not so fast, said Kealoha Pisciotta, president of Mauna Kea Anaina Hou, one of several groups that requested a contested case hearing.
"They can't implement anything if we go forward with it," Pisciotta said. The state attorney general's office would have to decide whether the groups that have requested a contested case hearing have standing.
Thielen may also have to await legal advice on whether to grant a contested case hearing, which would reconsider the board's decision. The Department of Land and Natural Resources must wait 10 days to receive written requests for such a hearing.
Before the vote, 22 people testified on the plan. Opinion among those testifying yesterday was split down the middle, with 11 in favor and 11 against.
Among those in favor were Roberta Chu, incoming chairwoman of the Hawaii Island Economic Development Board, Kahu Ku Mauna member Ed Stevens, and Randy Hirokawa, dean of the UH-Hilo College of Arts and Sciences.
Peace activist Jim Albertini, Kanaka Council alakai Kale Gumapac, Hanalei Fergerstrom of the Temple of Lono and Clarence Ching, a plaintiff in the lawsuit that ultimately led to the creation of the plan, all testified in opposition.