Friday, November 18, 2016

[DONDEQUIERA] The Future of Arecibo Observatory

NSF Conducts Environmental Impact and National Historic Preservation Act Meetings #saveOurObservatory

Arecibo site before construction (Dec 1960)

In two different meetings yesterday, the National Science Foundation (NSF) conducted public meetings to discuss the impact of the agency's proposed plans to significantly cutting the operating budget of the Arecibo Observatory.

The first meeting was to discuss the draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), whose purpose it is to analyze the potential environmental impacts associated with potential funding changes for the Arecibo Observatory in Arecibo, Puerto Rico.  In this context, environmental impact is a broad topic encompassing: biological resources, cultural resources, geology and soils, groundwater, hazardous materials, solid waste, health and safety, noise, socioeconomics, traffic and transportation, and visual resources.

I'll be drilling into the DEIS to break down the proposed alternatives and sharing some of the public comments.  Suffice to say, but many of the senior scientists with direct experience with the observatory indicated, that even at 272 pages, the draft was incomplete.

After construction in August 1963
The second meeting was centered around Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act.  Specifically, the NSF reviewed the technical report "Proposed Changes to Arecibo Observatory Operations: Historic Properties Assessment of Effects."

Again, soon I'll be scouring the technical report and sharing what I learned at the meeting.  Although, many in the audience thought it absurd that the NSF was conducting two very different administrative processes. In one, the NSF discusses their assessment of the historical effects on the Arecibo Observatory of reduced NSF funding. In the other, they are discussing deconstructing all or parts of the historic site.


First, even though the Arecibo Observatory is already on the US national list of historic sites, or even if it became a national landmark, it is still threatened by the outcome of these two administrative processes.  In short, the NSF is in the final stretches of deciding how to divest themselves of the observatory.  Of course, if new collaborators surface, then the future of the site would be more stable.

However, it is clear to me that we must make NSF hear our voices and defend the future of the  observatory. To declare in a unified voice that the Arecibo Observatory is a Puerto Rican treasure, a national treasure and it must be saved.

Publicado por Blogger en DONDEQUIERA el 11/18/2016 07:34:00 p.m.


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