UPDATE: July 19, 2018: Police arrested approximately 33 elderly Native Hawaiian protesters — some using canes and others in wheelchairs — from the Mauna Kea site on Wednesday, the Associated Press reported.
State officials said the individuals were given citations and released. According to the AP, about 2,000 protesters — more than three times the number that helped block roads to construction crews since Monday — showed up at the site after the arrests.
This action came after Hawaii Gov. David Ige signed an emergency proclamation that allows authorities to close off areas of Mauna Kea, control access to the site and arrest protesters if necessary.
UPDATE: Jul 17, 2019: Thirty Meter Telescope construction crews were not able to begin construction on Monday as planned because protesters blocked the entrance to the site, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported.
This is how those opposed to the construction of the telescope were able to interfere with construction back in 2015. Several activists chained themselves to a cattle guard on the main access road, but no arrests were made. According to the Star-Advertiser, protestors were on site again on Tuesday. Protestors told Time that they were prepared for a “prolonged struggle” to keep construction of the telescope from moving forward.
Hawaii Gov. David Ige, in coordination with the Thirty Meter Telescope International Observatory, announced that construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) will begin this week.
The project has been 10 years in the making, with the holdup being mostly attributable to legal battles launched by local activists who object to building on the summit of Mauna Kea, which some consider a sacred site, according to the Associated Press. Protests continued at the site at least through Monday, according to reports.
When complete, the estimated $2 billion telescope will be the largest telescope in the Northern Hemisphere, The New York Times reported.
Opponents argue that Mauna Kea is a sacred site, and point to the 13 since-retired telescopes left behind there as construction debris. However, as part of the Notice to Proceed issued for the TMT project earlier this year, five telescopes will be decommissioned and the areas restored to their original states.
That has not stopped additional lawsuits, though. An activist coalition, the People of Hawaii, filed a legal action earlier this month arguing that TMT officials failed to post the required bond in the full amount of the project. The bond would pay for future restoration of the site.
Hawaii officials also have been on both sides of the project. In 2015, the Hawaii Supreme Court revoked the project's permit, a decision based on procedural issues. In 2017, the state's Board of Land and Natural Resources issued another permit, which the Supreme Court upheld. In its decision, the court touched on cultural concerns and said that construction and operation of the TMT would not interfere with Native Hawaiians' use of the site.
Construction and cultural traditions sometimes clash as they did over the $3.8 billion Dakota Access Pipeline. In 2017, activists tried to prevent Energy Transfer Partners, the pipeline's developer, and the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers from running the line under Lake Oahe near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in North and South Dakota. The pipeline's route under the lake and a portion of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers drew fire from environmentalists who warned that a leak could contaminate the waters, and Native Americans said the water was tied to religious and cultural traditions.
Despite the dangers outlined in challengers' lawsuits, a federal judge allowed the pipeline construction to continue and allowed Energy Transfer to operate the pipeline. The Corps' said the pipeline poses little risk because it's located 100 feet underground.