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with Section 106 Section
106 in Action Archive
of Prominent Section 106 Cases Hawaii: Construction of Telescopes
at Mauna Kea Science Reserve
Construction of Telescopes at Mauna Kea
Agency: National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Criterion for ACHP Involvement:
- This project will adversely affect properties of religious and cultural significance to Native Hawaiian organizations (Criterion 4).
In January 2002, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
held a final round of Section 106 consultation meetings on its plans to
provide funding for the construction of four, and perhaps ultimately six,
small telescopes at the W. M. Keck Observatory near the summit of the
dormant volcano Mauna Kea on the Island of Hawaii.
Mauna Kea observatories, HI
(photo courtesy of Richard Wainscoat)
These meetings with NASA, ACHP, the Hawaii State Historic Preservation
Officer, and the Native Hawaiian consulting parties focused on a draft
Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) developed by NASA. The draft MOA, which
includes provisions for creation of space science educational and cultural
outreach programs for Native Hawaiians, is based on comments NASA received
in numerous meetings and correspondence over the past year.
The two existing large telescopes at the Keck observatory are the most
powerful telescopes in the world and play a primary role in NASAs
Origins Program, which studies how stars and planets evolve and whether
life may exist on other worlds. The observatory is run by the California
Association for Research in Astronomy, a consortium of universities, and
is located within the Mauna Kea Science Reserve, which is owned by the
State of Hawaii and leased to the University of Hawaii. The Mauna Kea
Science Reserve is home to several observatory facilities and a total
of 13 telescopes. (For more information on the Mauna Kea Science Reserve,
visit www.ifa.hawaii.edu and select
Mauna Kea contains numerous historic properties, ranging from a National
Historic Landmark prehistoric stone adze quarry to natural landscape features
associated with Native Hawaiian cultural traditions. NASA has concurred
with the determination of the Hawaii SHPO that the summit of Mauna Kea
is eligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places
as a historic district, and that the cinder cone on which the new telescopes
would be placed is a part of another historic property eligible for the
The SHPO has stated that the historic district encompasses a sufficient
concentration of historic properties (i.e., shrines, burials, and culturally
significant landscape features) that are historically, culturally, and
visually linked within the context of their setting and environment.
Even with the new telescopes added, the area occupied by all of the Keck
telescopes and associated facilities will be only a small portion of the
Mauna Kea summit region.
In consultation with the SHPO, NASA has determined that construction
of the telescopes would adversely affect the historic properties through
additional disturbance to the structural and visual integrity of the summit.
In September 2000, ACHP accepted NASAs invitation to participate
in the consultation process in order to assist NASA in meeting the requirements
of Section 106.
In February 2001, ACHP assisted NASA at consultation meetings
and open houses for over two hundred people that provided Native Hawaiian
organizations, local groups and communities, and the general public with
information on NASAs plans for the new telescopes, and sought comments
on impacts to historic and cultural properties. At these meetings, NASA
sought guidance on proposed educational mitigation measures are in the
public interest and how the Native Hawaiian community could benefit best
from NASAs extensive educational resources.
The summit of Mauna Kea is an ideal place to locate telescopes. At the
same time, the summit is of extreme importance to the cultural identity
of Native Hawaiians. Recognizing this, NASA is proposing a package of
creative mitigation measures in its draft MOA, including the development
of new space science educational and cultural outreach programs for Native
Hawaiians of all ages. Such off-site mitigation can be effective
in addressing adverse effects to historic properties.
This project offers an interesting opportunity to examine how meaningful
off-site mitigation can be conducted in connection with properties of
traditional religious and cultural significance.
Staff contact: Tom
May 6, 2003
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