Faleasao Harbor dredging project part of FY ’14 budget
Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga is requesting $1.5 million from the fiscal year 2014 budget to carry out dredging maintenance for Faleasao Harbor in Manu’a, as an application for the project is filed with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineer.
The request is included under the “Special Program” budget category.
In his budget summary letter, the Governor said the Army Corps informed him that maintenance dredging for Ta’u and Ofu harbors will not happen until late 2015 or early 2016.
With this disclosure, Lolo says dredging of Faleasao harbor (on Ta’u island) “becomes critical to ensure that an alternative harbor is accessible by the MV Sili.”
“It’s also been determined that the cost of the dredging work at Faleasao must be borne by the American Samoa Government as it is not considered a federal facility,” Lolo added, pointing out that the MV Sili has incurred damages because of the “unsafe depths” of the Manu’a harbors.
To maintain the current development efforts happening on the Manu’a islands, Lolo told lawmakers “it is imperative that the MV Sili has a safe harbor at which to load and unload its cargo.”
He said that completion of a smaller size vessel could accommodate movement of cargo from Faleasao to Ofu in the event the MV Sili cannot safely enter Ofu harbor.
Therefore, it’s “critical to complete this Faleasao dredging project as soon as possible upon issuance” of a federal permit by the Army Corps, the Governor said.
Last month, Lolo wrote to the Army Corps Hawai'i District thanking them for their assistance and help in expediting approval of the federal permit so that dredging for Faleasao can begin as soon as possible.
Under the FY 2014 budget for Capital Improvement Project funds, $1.01 million is allocated to the Port Administration for “Manu’a Harbors” but no other details are included in the budget document.
Based on a recommendation by Congressman Faleomavaega Eni, the governor said earlier this month that his administration will be taking the necessary steps to have the federal government designate the Faleasao wharf as a "federal area," which will expedite needed improvements using federal funds.
“The most urgent project is the Faleasao dredging maintenance which is not under the administrative and funding purview of the Army Corps,” Lolo said.
Dredging of the Manu’a harbors was among the projects to be funded under the $20-million-dollar loan ASG received more than 5 years ago from the ASG Employees Retirement Fund, but the project ran into problems.
During a Senate Investigative Committee hearing last August, then Port Administration Director Matagi McMoore told senators that $2 million was for the dredging project, and this covered the two barges and the excavator.
The committee was probing the spending of the $20 million loan.
Port Administration Deputy Director Chris King testified during the same hearing that the U.S. Coast Guard had not approved the use of the barges, which were to dredge the Manu’a harbors. He said the excavator was to sit on one barge while the other was for “spoilers” (or to support the dredging process).
As of two weeks ago, the barges were said to be deteriorating, being anchored along Pago Harbor while the new administration tries to find ways to recover any money by selling the barges, which are “spud barges” for use only on rivers and lakes.
Dredging the harbors in Manu’a has been discussed in the Fono several times and there were calls made during the previous administration to carry out the work but nothing was ever done.