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Telescope Manufacturing Continues Amid Delays

One problem? They're making components even though they're not certain where it is going.

HILO, Hawaii (AP) — Manufacturing of key components for the Thirty Meter Telescope has continued around the world despite a home location being up in the air.

Gary Sanders, project manager, said heavy construction is on hold but all other manufacturing is ongoing, the Hawaii Tribune-Herald reported Sunday. 

"Almost everything else is going ahead quite briskly," Sanders said. 

The telescope's board of directors — with members from five different countries involved in the project — is expected to decide in April whether to stay in Hawaii or move to Spain's Canary Islands. 

The nonprofit organization based in California said Maunakea remains the preferred location for its cutting-edge telescope, though several years of delays from protests and legal challenges have made its future there uncertain. Appeals of its sublease and land use permit are being heard by the Hawaii Supreme Court. 

Sanders said the $1.4 billion project has received a land concession for a mountain on the island of La Palma and a hosting agreement. The environmental review process for that site should be done by the end of the year. He acknowledged the organization expects a legal challenge in Spain as well, though the project is expected to prevail. 

"There will undoubtedly be some legal challenge," Sanders said, regarding the environmental impact statement (EIS). "It's an environmentally sensitive place." 

The project completed an EIS for Maunakea in 2010 without challenges. Construction started in 2014 but was halted by protests prior to the state Supreme Court overturning its initial permit due to procedural violations by the Land Board. 

The mountain is considered sacred by some Native Hawaiians. 

The board granted another permit, which is under appeal, last year following a second contested case hearing. 

Manufacturing of the dome is expected to begin later this year in Canada following confirmation of the site, Sanders said. Construction of the telescope structure will begin in April in Japan.

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