Science Project Approval

In keeping with the University's management mandate and requiremets in the 2009 Comprehensive Management Plan (CMP), OMKM reviews and approves scientific activities on Maunakea. Activities are evaluated and categorized as original or minimal / minor / major projects, pursuant to Hawaii Administrative Rules for the Conservation District (13-5) and summarized in the Land Use section of this website. This review also helps ensure opportunities for community input occur early in the process.

Scientific activities that occur on University-managed lands, involve fieldwork, the collection of specimens or samples, have the potential to impact resources or visitors, or may impact the cultural landscape, activities, and historic properties, must be reviewed and approved by OMKM.  This same screening process is applied to astronomy observatory and support activities (outside or on the exterior of the existing built structures).  

This summary applies only to "minimal impact" projects, generally speaking those that do not require excavation and whose impacts to the surroundings are minimal. The "typical conditions" listed below also apply to even routine activities that do not require explicit approval as the activity is still considered to be a minimal impact. If you are uncertain as to the scope of your project, please contact OMKM first.  Interest parties should recognize that not all proposals are approved, but that the priorities and processes of the 2009 Comprehensive Management Plan are implemented.

Request & Approval Process, for "minimal impact" projects

  1. Complete the OMKM project template (MS Word).  Please review this template carefully as it is designed to address expectations in the Comprehensive Management Plan as well as State Conservation District land use requirements.
  2. Review the CMP compliance matrix (MS Excel) and address how your project reflects 2009 Comprehensive Management Plan adaptive management goals.
  3. Submit both your project word document and compliance matrix to OMKM ( for review and revision in Word or another editable electronic format (i.e. not as a PDF or as a paper copy). Most projects require multiple iterations to finalize and submission does NOT mean the project is authorized to proceed.
  4. OMKM will submit the proposal for consultation with Kahu Kū Mauna
  5. After revisions resulting from consultation with Kahu Kū Mauna are completed, if any, the project will be submitted to the Mauna Kea Management Board for review and approval.
  6. Some activities may require additional permits or approvals by other governing bodies. Examples of activities requiring additional approvals include but are not limited to: research spanning University-managed and State Forest Reserve or Natural Area Reserve lands, working with threatened or endangered species, invertebrate or wildlife capturing or handling, and activities requiring State of Hawaii Historic Preservation Division or Office of Conservation and Coastal Lands division approval. Applicants should discuss with OMKM whether such permits must be required.  The governing authority will ultimately determine if additional permits or approvals are required. The applicant is responsible for obtaining any appropriate external approvals and providing written documentation to OMKM.
  7. After receiving Mauna Kea Management Board approval to proceed, and copies of any additional permits required of other agencies are provided to OMKM; then, OMKM issues a letter authorizing the project.  The activity is not authorized until this letter is received, and this letter must be on-hand with all participants when present on University-managed lands.

This process typically requires 3-6 months once a proposal has been submitted for review (after completing step # 3 above), although additional time is occasionally needed.

Common proposal revision requests include:

  • Writing for a non-technical, community audience.
  • Identify any activity or equipment that emits electromagnetic radiation (light, radio, micro, or other wave energy) that might affect visible, submillimeter, or radio astronomy. This information is reviewed by the Maunakea astronomy community.
  • If the proposed activities are redundant or duplicative in-full or in-part with past or ongoing efforts; plainly written, non-technical justification must be included as to why the work is needed and its benefits.  [See the 'Resources for Researchers' page for more information].
  • Identify benefits or application to the local, island of Hawaiʻi, community.
  • Work with OMKM on the development of suitable mitigation measures.
  • Clearly state quantities and location(s) of equipment and people involved.
  • Provide timeframe and duration of study.

When applicable, project approval conditions include:

  • Notify OMKM in writing at least 5 days prior, and no more than 14 days prior, to beginning field work on UH managed lands (Halepōhaku, Road Corridor, Maunakea Science Reserve, or Astronomy Precinct).  This notification MUST:
    1. Be sent via US mail to the "Office of Maunakea Management" or to omkm @; alternate notifications will not be acknowledged. 
    2. Identify by name-of-entity all observatories, contractors, vendors, suppliers, etc. anticipated to be associated with and substantively present on UH managed lands at any time during the project.
    3. Attest that all individuals anticipated to be associated with the project have completed the Maunakea User Orientation at the time of notification.
    4. Identify the date that work shall commence.  An approximate date or range of potential dates will not be accepted.
    5. Identify the observatory-affiliated individual(s) who will be coordinating all invasive species related inspections.
    6. Attest that the observatory (or MKSS) will ensure compliance with all permit conditions and communicate with OMKM if there is any uncertainty and notify OMKM in writing of other entities responsible for elements of compliance or responsibility.
    7. State if a pre-project meeting with OMKM is requested before work commences. Such a meeting is highly recommended for any project beyond activities completed by existing observatory staff.  These meetings review orientation content, implications of project non-compliance, project-specific concerns regarding resource protection, health and safety, impacts to visitors, etc.  They may be held in person, via phone, webinar, or other means.
    8. OMKM shall provide a written reply explicitly verifying if the project is approved to commence (issue a "notice to proceed"), no project work commence before this time.  No project notification will be accepted by OMKM until until all permit requirements are submitted to and approved by OMKM (i.e. any required BMPs, Communication Plans, contract scope questions, etc. must be finalized and approved by OMKM more than 5 days in advance of project commencement). 
    9. OMKM is not liable or responsible for delays due to inadequate, late, or submissions requiring verification. Incomplete submissions will not be acknowledged.
  • All project participants must attend a Maunakea orientation prior to participating in field work.
  • Use of 4-wheel drive vehicles, with 4-wheel drive engaged, when traveling above Halepōhaku is required.  Exceptions require notification to the road-conditions email group on an explicit case-by-case basis.
  • Allow OMKM Rangers to visit and monitor activities.
  • Comply with all actions and measures described in the proposal, including (community) benefits, CMP compliance list, and mitigation measures.
  • Ensure that loose tools or equipment are not left unattended and are properly stored at the end of each day.
  • In preparation for high wind conditions protocols must include measures to ensure debris and equipment are not blown from the job site. Projects occurring in the summit region must verify that temporary and permanent infrastructure can sustain 120mph winds.
  • All improvements shall be designed and installed to withstand the severe weather conditions on the mountain.
  • Remove and properly dispose of all waste material.  All perishable items including food, food wrappers and containers, etc. shall be removed from the site at the end of each day and properly disposed.
  • Use of lighting from sunset to sunrise is prohibited unless otherwise stated in the project proposal and approved.
  • Employ invasive species prevention best practices, including inspections of materials by a DLNR-approved biologist, as identified in the Maunakea Invasive Species Management Plan prior to entering UH managed lands.  Every inspection request submitted to OMKM shall include correspondence with the obseratory representative(s) identified in the initial notification.  Inspections shall not occur on UH managed lands on Maunakea, at State or County parks, along public roadsides, or on Department of Hawaiian Home Lands.
  • Motorized equipment, when stationary, must have a drain-pan in place suitable for catching fuel or fluid leaks. To allow for expansion with reduced atmospheric pressure, fuel tanks should not be more than 3/4 full prior to transport to the summit (unless used as the fuel source for transport to the summit).
  • When closed to the public yet open to Observatories, vehicle access to the Maunakea Summit Access Road above the Halepōhaku Mid-Level Support Facility area is limited to expressly marked Observatory, MKSS, OMKM, Federal, or State of Hawaiʻi vehicles when operated by their approved employees or representatives on official business and possessing requisite orientation, training, safety, and self-rescue supplies.
  • Large, heavy, non-4-wheel drive, or oversized loads must submit notification to the Maunakea Road Conditions listserve at least one-day prior to delivery.  Loads requiring an escort on public roadways must have this escort accompany them to the final destination.  Projects choosing not to do so must obtain approval from the Maunakea Rangers before arriving at Halepōhaku. Projects failing to submit notification or arrange for escort to the summit may be denied entry to Halepōhaku or above.
  • Nēnē (Branta sandvicensis) may be present.  If a nēnē appears within 100 feet (30.5) meters of ongoing work, all activity shall be temporarily suspended until the animal leaves the area of its own accord.  Feeding of nēnē is prohibited.
  • The project approval/permit may not be transferred or assigned. A copy of the approval/permit must be present on-site and available for review at all times while are working on University-managed lands.
  • Unless otherwise stated in the proposal, upon project completion copies of all data, field notes, photos, log books, collected specimens, and other forms of documentation will be shared with OMKM for future, unrestricted, use by OMKM or its designee. All geospatial data, metadata or applications must be in a format compatible with OMKM GIS software or other industry standard identified in advance.
  • Collected specimens that are not consumed in analysis will be returned to OMKM unless otherwise specified.
  • No use of mechanized equipment is allowed unless authorized by this permit.
  • Identify and comply with other permit requirements, such as County of Hawaii building permits or Department of Land & Natural Resources (see both any applicable DLNR permit and HAR §13-5-42 Standard conditions).
  • Placement of permanent: markers, monuments, mag nails, survey pins, etc. is not allowed without explicit prior approval from OMKM (and the State if required) for this purpose.  ALL surveyors work must be shared with OMKM in digital format (i.e. CAD file as well as PDF) with coordinate info stored in and using a common, transferrable coordinate reference system such as  “State Plane Coordinates (NAD83), Hawaii Zone 1”. 

  • Use of cell-phones, other than in airplane mode, is prohibited except in case of emergency.
  • Use of real-time GPS during any surveying or equipment operation requires advance written approval from OMKM and the Institute for Astronomy.  Written approval should be request at least 4 weeks prior to the proposed activity.
  • Electronic and paper copies of all publications resulting from the work will be provided to OMKM. 
  • When applicable, annual and final reports must be submitted to OMKM.  OMKM will provide guidance on content to be included in such reports.
  • When applicable, a brief, approximately 1-page, non-technical summary suitable for public outreach (school groups, community meetings, newsletter articles, etc.) must be provided to OMKM within 90 days of project completion or publication.  Photos and illustrations are encouraged.
  • Notify OMKM in writing when field activity associated with the project is completed.  This notification must list all steps identified in the "notice to proceed" and explicitly communicate the status of completion.
  • The project must be completed within the time frame specified in the proposal and (when applicable) DLNR approval. Projects not completed within this timeframe are not allowed to continue (or commence) without explicit, prior, written approval from OMKM.
  • Additional, project-specific, conditions are commonly added.

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