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TMT Receives Final Approval

An artist's rendering of the telescope at sunset. Courtesy TMT Observatory Corporation.

It’s finally “go” for construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) on Maunakea. On July 25 the Hawai‘i Board of Land and Natural Resources approved the required sublease, the last step in the permitting process. The next-generation TMT will ensure that Maunakea Observatories will remain the foremost observing site in the northern hemisphere for decades.

Previously, Kahu Kū Mauna (a volunteer community-based council whose members are from the native Hawaiian community) and the Maunakea Management Board reviewed, and the University of Hawai‘i Board of Regents approved, the proposed TMT sublease. This final approval from the Board of Land and Natural Resources allows TMT to begin on-site construction. TMT announced it would begin the initial phase of construction, with activities near the summit scheduled to start later this year.

The start of TMT on-site construction will directly benefit the local Hawaiian community. TMT will now make its first annual contribution to The Hawaii Island New Knowledge (THINK) Fund, a program that promotes science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education across grades K–12 and postsecondary education. Over the life of the TMT sublease, TMT will contribute $1 million per year to the THINK Fund.

In the construction sector, TMT will create about 300 full-time construction jobs. TMT has committed to hire union workers for these positions. When TMT becomes operational in about 2022, it will have a staff of 120–140 that will be drawn as much as possible from Hawai‘i Island’s available labor pool. In the meantime, a workforce pipeline program will educate and train island residents for jobs with TMT, as well as other observatories and high-tech industries.