Cost grows to $8.3M in policing Maunakea

  • A woman who identified herself by her first name of “Ilohia” held a “Not Pono (just)” sign in front of police officers standing in formation at Mauna Kea Access Road earlier this year. (Photo by CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL/STAR ADVERTISER)

HONOLULU — The state and counties have spent at least $8.3 million on law enforcement costs related to the Thirty Meter Telescope standoff on Maunakea that began in mid-July.

That figure includes new cost information released by the Hawaii Attorney General’s office and state Department of Land and Natural Resources on Tuesday, as well as prior amounts disclosed by the counties.

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The total costs to date are sure to be higher than what’s been released as some of the figures only go through the end of August or mid-September.

It has cost $985,000 through Aug. 30 to employ the Hawaii National Guard, according to the Attorney General’s office. Eighty members of the guard have helped staff a checkpoint and assisted law enforcement with transportation and personnel.

The office disclosed that the state Public Safety Department, which oversees the state sheriff’s division, spent $558,000 through Aug. 15.

The Attorney General’s office has expended another $1.5 million through Sept. 6.

DLNR has spent $601,000 to date on costs relating to officers with its Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement who have maintained an ongoing presence on the mountain since the conflict began. Those costs include overtime and cost differentials, as well as money spent on equipment, travel and lodging.

Meanwhile, Hawaii County has spent more than $4.4 million on TMT-related expenses, mostly on overtime for police officers, according to the county.

The Honolulu and Maui County police departments spent about $260,000 combined in overtime, travel and vehicle shipping.

Earlier this year, the state budgeted $15 million to be used for TMT-related costs. The funding, allocated during this year’s legislative session that ended in May, was transferred from the Department of Transportation to the Attorney General’s Community Safety Program trust fund, according to the governor’s office.

Opponents of the telescope have been protesting at the intersection of Daniel K. Inouye Highway and Maunakea Access Road, and the access road has been closed since July 15. On July 17 police arrested 39 people for blocking the road.

The protesters say the TMT project is a desecration of a mountain that many Hawaiians consider sacred, and say they will not allow the project to be built. Anti-TMT sentiment has spread beyond Hawaii island and included protests across the islands and garnered worldwide attention.

Sponsors of the TMT project spent a decade acquiring needed state and county permits to build, and overcame numerous legal challenges to the project. The $1.4 billion project has been delayed for five years.

Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim on Monday released a plan for resolving the controversy, saying the TMT should be the last observatory ever developed on the mountain. Negotiations, he said, would continue.

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Meanwhile, The Hawaii Police Department said in a press release Thursday that patrols assigned to be in place for the TMT protester blockade and encampment on Maunakea Access Road issued 591 more citations from Sept. 26 to Thursday.

The combined total of the seven-week long enhanced traffic enforcement efforts by the department stands at 4,092 citations issued and 43 persons arrested for 71 offenses.