Congressman Faleomavaega announced today that he submitted testimony to the Senate regarding the $2 million which has been set aside for the construction of an airport tower at the Pago Pago International Airport.
“Initially, my request for the $2 million was to fund the construction of a temporary tower which was supposed to last for at least 10 years, until such time as the FAA would then provide for a more permanent tower,” the Congressman said.
“But for almost two years the FAA could not make up its mind about whether or not to construct a temporary tower. On the one hand, the FAA sent parts for the temporary tower. On the other hand, the FAA made no effort to construct the tower and, as a result of the FAA’s indecisiveness, the parts corroded and became useless due to salt air exposure.”
“When the FAA informed my office it needed additional funding to build a tower, I made the request for funding through our Congressional friends both in the House and Senate,” Faleomavaega said. “While still not sure if it would build a tower for us, the FAA then decided to conduct a cost-benefit analysis as required by federal law to determine if the costs of building a tower would be justifiable based upon the number of flights that the airport handles each day. As it turned out, FAA determined that American Samoa does not qualify for the construction of an air traffic control tower, neither for temporary nor for permanent use.”
“Nevertheless, at my request and with the support of Chairman Don Young of the House Committee on Transportation, Senators Ted Stevens and Daniel Inouye, Chairman and Vice-Chairman, respectively, of the Senate Committee on Transportation, and Ranking Member Nick Rahall of the Resources Committee, we set aside $2 million for the construction of a temporary airport tower until such time as we could find a resolution to this problem. This money has been set aside since 2004 in HR 4818, the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2005, which has now become Public Law 108-447.”
“At my request, the FAA is also holding the money until such time as we can best determine how to proceed. Consequently, I have been working closely with the Administration and Congress to resolve this situation and it would be premature and inappropriate for me to make public comments about this matter until the interests of our people are protected. What I will say is that I do not support turning the $2 million over to ASG for purposes of constructing a local tower outside of the FAA system and I have asked the FAA to put a hold on any such proposal.”
“I also do not support FAA Regional Director Bill Withycombe’s suggestion that we follow Saipan’s example and pursue alternatives to our tower issue. I believe in safety first and, for this reason, the only proposal I will support is one which requires the FAA to construct an airport tower in American Samoa and one in which FAA-trained controllers monitor our air traffic. Ideally, I would also hope that the FAA would train and employ qualified individuals from American Samoa and this is my priority.”
“Finally, I do not believe we need a $13 million tower. All we need is something similar to the tower at the Faleolo Airport in Samoa and my office has made inquiries as to the approximate cost of the construction of the airport tower in Faleolo, Samoa. At the time of construction, I was told it cost about $400,000.”
“Since whatever resolution we put in place will affect our people for years to come, I have respectfully requested that ASG hold off on any local initiatives until we can agree on our course of action. Again, I remain hopeful that this situation can be resolved as soon as possible, and I commend the Senate President and Senators for their interest in this very important matter,” Congressman Faleomavaega concluded.