By PETER SUR
Tribune-Herald staff writer
The Office of Mauna Kea Management is working on a burial treatment plan and intends to take it into the Hawaiian community for review upon completion.
Director Stephanie Nagata will present an informational briefing of the plan at Tuesday’s meeting of the Mauna Kea Management Board in Hilo.
Nagata called the documents “preliminary working drafts” for burial treatment. She declined to make them available for review on the grounds that they were still works in progress, but described the contents on Thursday.
There are a few known and presumed burials on Mauna Kea, Nagata said, most of them in remote locations.
“Of course, we would follow all state (laws) and regulations that apply to burials,” Nagata said.
A burial treatment plan is normally done in the context of new development.
Even though such a plan is not required in this case, “We’re doing it because we believe it is the right thing to do,” she said.
It’s also being done to conform with one of the requirements of the Mauna Kea Comprehensive Management Plan’s Cultural Resources sub-plan. The CMP sub-plan, approved in 2009, calls for the development of a bural treatment plan for areas managed by the University of Hawaii “in consultation with Kahu Ku Mauna Council, MKMB’s Hawaiian Culture Committee, the Hawaii Island Burial Council, recognized lineal or cultural descendants, and SHPD (the state Historical Preservation Division).
The draft plan was presented to the Hawaii Island Burial Council on June 21. The agenda for that day indicates that the council received a draft report about a burial treatment plan for sites in the Mauna Kea Science Reserve and the Mauna Kea Access Road Corridor. SHPD declined to release the minutes from that meeting to the Tribune-Herald, however, because the person who was authorized to do that was out of the office.
Leningrad Elarionoff, a member of the Hawaii Island Burial Council, recalls that the presentation was different from a regular case, in which the council decides what to do for human remains that have been unearthed.
“What they were doing is, if they come across bones, how they’re going to deal with it,” Elarionoff said. That’s in contrast to the normal practice, in which findings of human remains are treated on a case-by-case basis, he said.
“I don’t think we made any decision on that,” he said.
Most times, the council recommends a burial in place if it doesn’t interfere with a development. The Hawaiians of old used to choose where they wanted to be buried, Elarionoff said, and the council respects that.
Mauna Kea Management Board members will also be appraised of working drafts related to the stacking of rocks, in response to two other recommendations from the management plan.
One of the recommendations states that “Kahu Ku Mauna shall take the lead in determining the appropriateness of constructing new Hawaiian cultural features.” The other calls for a management policy for the cultural appropriateness of stacking rocks.
“We need to protect the cultural landscape,” Nagata said, and suggested a registry in which cultural practitioners could inform the University of Hawaii about the location of their ahu, or stone markers, so the markers could be noted and protected. On the other hand, people have been known to arrange rocks into star or heart shapes at the summit, and those formations will likely be dismantled, Nagata said.
“We want to prevent copycat behavior,” Nagata said.
Other items on the agenda include the appointment of a new member of Kahu Ku Mauna — Nagata declined to identify that person — and a request by the Thirty Meter Telescope Observatory Corp. to do a geotechnical study of the site proposed for the observatory.
This study would use ground-penetrating radar, to send microwave signals into the ground and reflect off subsurface lava tubes or voids. Consultants would also use what is known as “multichannel analysis of surface waves,” or MASW, to make sure the slope of the mountain provides a stable foundation. The strength of the transmitter is estimated to be 1 percent of the power of a cell phone.
In MASW, a person uses a sledgehammer to strike a steel plate that is placed over a rubber mat on the ground. A portable network of up to 24 seismic recorders, known as geophones, records the movement of the sledgehammer’s impact and provides information about the density of the underlying rock.
“TMT will analyze the data for signs of potential burial sites and will notify the Office of Mauna Kea Management of any potential burial sites that are identified during the study,” the submittal says.
If approved at Tuesday’s meeting, the survey will be done on Mauna Kea’s northwest plain, a few hundred feet below the summit cones, over a three-week period.
Nearly a year after the contested case hearing for the Thirty Meter Telescope concluded, hearing officer Paul Aoki has still not released his ruling. Neither the supporters nor the opponents of the telescope are aware of the status of the case.
“As far as the hearing officer report goes,we don’t know when it’s going to come out and we don’t have any information on when it’s supposed to come out,” said TMT project manager Gary Sanders, when asked about it on Aug. 6. “So we’re just waiting like you are and we’ll work with the process as long as it takes.”
The board meeting will be held in the Institute for Astronomy building at 10 a.m. Tuesday.
Email Peter Sur at email@example.com.