Hawaii’s Supreme Court made a controversial decision on a long-debated issue by voting in favor of continuing the construction of a large telescope on the Mauna Kea volcano, a mountain that's considered sacred to native Hawaiians.
The court voted on Tuesday in favor of the state's Board of Land and Natural Resources' decision in 2017 to grant a construction permit to build the Thirty-Meter Telescope, also known as TMT.
“We’re pleased the court carefully considered and weighed all the varied and passionate testimony about TMT," Hawaiian Governor David Ige said in a statement on Tuesday. "We believe this decision is fair and right and will continue to keep Hawai‘i at the forefront of astronomy."
The decision follows years of litigation in courts and protests from Native Hawaiians, many of whom fear that the impending project will desecrate a spiritual space, according to ABC affiliate KITV.
In response to the persistent opposition, which is only expected to intensify with the court's decision, TMT spokesperson Scott Ishikawa stressed that the company would do its best to be good to the mountain.
“I think everybody understands now that it is a special place — that everyone has to take their own responsibility of taking care of her,” Ishikawa said.
David Lassner, president of the University of Hawaii, which has backed the construction of TMT, added in the governor's statement: "We will ensure that this project is accomplished appropriately and with the deepest respect for the awesomeness of Mauna Kea."
Now that construction on TMT has been approved, the benchmark $1.4 billion dollar project is one step closer to its projected 2029 completion.