Congressman Faleomavaega announced today that he has responded to the Senate’s inquiry regarding the $16 million set aside for village roads and other transportation projects. The full text of the Congressman’s letter dated February 9, 2006 addressed to Senate President Lolo Moliga and copied to every member of the Senate is included below.
Dear Mr. President:
I am writing in response to your inquiry regarding the $16 million federal set aside in transportation funds for American Samoa. It is my understanding that the Senators have expressed concern about the use of this money and their lack of participation in determining how the funds should be divided.
It should be noted that on March 5, 2003 I wrote to Governor Tauese Sunia (letter attached) and informed him that the Committee on Transportation was accepting testimony and I requested a letter of support from him based on our discussions about American Samoa’s transportation needs. Although every member of the Fono was copied on my letter, I did not hear back from the Fono or Governor Sunia.
On January 23, 2004, I had a phone conversation with Governor Togiola and included his requests. On Monday January 26, 2004, I requested data from the Director of Public Works but, unfortunately, he was unable to get back to me. On February 4, 2004, I wrote to Governor Togiola and provided him with an up-to-date accounting of where we were in the process.
This said, I am enclosing documentation from the House Committee on Transportation which will explain, in part, how the authorization process works. For example, in the Transportation Committee notice dated January 10, 2003, Chairman Don Young and Ranking Member James Oberstar state:
We believe that you, as Members of the House of Representatives, are in the best position to help us identify the particular surface transportation needs of your Congressional Districts and to propose solutions to address those needs.
The Chairman and Ranking further state:
If you are interested in having the Committee consider specific surface transportation projects that would improve surface transportation in your District, please notify the Committee by following the instructions below.
Per the Committee’s instructions, I submitted transportation requests for
American Samoa and I made every effort to include ASG in this process. However, as a Member of Congress, it is and always has been within my purview to earmark federal dollars for projects that I believe would be most beneficial to our Territory.
Even so, I have not earmarked federal funding American Samoa receives for the operations of its government or for capital improvement projects (CIPs). As you know, Congress via the Department of the Interior gives ASG about $23 million per year for government operations and an additional $10 million for high priority or capital improvement projects.
While CIP funds can be used for transportation projects if ASG so chooses, as a matter of policy, I have left it to the discretion of our local leaders to decide how our CIP funds should be spent. As a matter of policy, I also never ask for input on how ASG chooses to spend local revenue.
In turn, I am hopeful that our local leaders will agree that matters of policy should work both ways and that from time to time the local government should also support my efforts to set-aside federal funds to address needs brought to my attention by the people of American Samoa and our traditional and local leaders.
The $16 million in question did not come from our CIP funds. The $16 million is extra money I was able to get in the transportation bill. This money is separate and apart from the annual transportation funding which American Samoa receives from the federal government to improve our local roads. From 1998-2004, our annual transportation funding was about $3.2 million per year, for a total of $22.4 million. For 2005-2006, our funding has been increased to $4 million per year and, for FY2007-2009, ASG will receive $5 million per year.
From 1992 to 2003, ASG received more than $77 million in transportation funds and at no time did I ever tell ASG how those funds should be spent. In 1998, however, I was able to get an extra $12 million for Village Road Development on the islands of Tutuila and Manu’a and this was the first time that federal transportation funds were appropriated to develop roads that are not part of the federal highway system.
Although I was able to get this additional funding in 1998 to supplement our annual transportation funds, there are still critical problems that need to be addressed. For this reason, I worked to get an extra $16 million in 2005 and I am pleased that it will be distributed by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) in accordance with my consultations with the Governor and our local leaders.
In consultation with Senator Tuaolo Fruean and High Paramount Chief Mauga and members of the Pago Pago council of chiefs, $1 million has been set aside for drainage mitigation for Pago Pago village roads.
In consultation with Senator Tago Suilefaiga, Representative Fagasoaia Lealaitafea and Representative Mary Taufete’e and members of the Nuuli council of chiefs, $1 million has been set aside for shoreline protection and drainage mitigation for Nuuli village roads.
In consultation with Senator Liufau Sonoma and Representative Paopao Fiaui, $1 million has been set aside for Aua village.
In consultation with Senator Faiivae Galea’i, Senator Lualemaga Faoa and members of the Leone and Malaeloa councils of chiefs, $1.4 million has been set aside for drainage mitigation for Malaeloa-Leone village roads.
In consultation with former Senator Faamausili Pola and members of the Ta’u village council of chiefs, $1.6 million has been set aside to upgrade and repair the Ta’u harbor facility.
Additionally, $10 million has been set aside for village road improvements in the Eastern, Western, Central and Manu’a districts of American Samoa and will be disbursed accordingly:
- $3 million village road improvements in the Central district;
- $3 million for village road improvements in the Western district;
- $2.6 million for village road improvements in the Eastern district; and
- $1.4 million for village road improvements in the Manua district.
As you are aware, in a letter dated February 3, 2006, Senator Tuato’o of
Saole county informed me that Saole county was left out. By separate correspondence dated February 9, 206, I have explained the circumstances surrounding this unintentional oversight and have informed him that I have taken corrective action.
Nevertheless, for your purposes, I will briefly note that in 2003, I submitted a general request to the Committee on Transportation for $9.4 million for use in the Eastern, Western, Central, and Manu’a Districts.
In 2004, I submitted a more specific request which divided the funding between the districts. I did this to make sure each district received transportation dollars. In the case of the Eastern District, I requested a $2 million set-aside in which I identified each of the counties, including Saole. For your information, I am enclosing these documents.
In 2005, I submitted a request to increase funding for the Eastern District from $2 million to $2.6 million. In the course of increasing funding for the Eastern District, my staff made a clerical error when preparing the paperwork and unintentionally omitted Saole among the counties. This error was not purposeful and I accept full responsibility for this oversight and have taken corrective action which will make it possible for Saoele county to receive its fair share of federal dollars.
The Congressman concluded his letter by saying, “I hope your concerns regarding American Samoa’s transportation funds are now resolved. As always, I remain available to work with you and I continue to wish you the very best.”