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ASPA and DPW work together to tackle tree hazards

fili@samoanews.com

The American Samoa Power Authority and the Department of Public Works have begun trimming trees as well as removing coconut trees along the main road in the Malaeimi area. The work began yesterday to tackle the trees that have become hazardous to motorists, especially during windy weather.
 
The tree trimming work will also assist other areas of Tualauta where trees are hanging too low, or are too close to power lines. The biggest concern over the last two weeks has been the strong winds, which were at 20-25 mph, with even higher gusts.
 
In a July 9 letter, Rep. Larry Sanitoa wrote to ASPA chief executive officer Utu Abe Malae seeking ASPA’s assistance. Sanitoa says several families in Malaeimi and concerned residents have requested assistance with trimming or cutting down the tall coconut trees along the road on the mountain side between the Malaeimi Market toward the access road to ASCC Land Grant.
 
He said the concerns of vendors and residents in the area are about falling debris—leaves, branches and coconuts — from the trees that are a hazard to both pedestrians and automobiles passing through the area. He also said that landowner, High Chief Puailoa of Malaeimi has given consent to trim or remove the trees as necessary to prevent any potentially fatal accidents.
 
With the recent high wind advisory (which goes back to the beginning of the month) Sanitoa says residents have been calling him inquiring about assistance with trimming the coconut trees, not only in Malaeimi but in several other areas of Tualauta county. Members of the Senate have also heard concerns from the public regarding this problem, which puts both pedestrians and motorists at risk. 
 
“In fact, one family reported a damaged car windshield from a falling coconut in the Malaeimi area,” he said adding that a similar complaint was filed by a resident regarding the Pavaiai/Aoloau Road as she reports there are several coconut trees on the road to her residence.
 
Sanitoa said he understands that ASPA only trims trees posing a potential hazard to power lines, and coconut trees along the roadside are not within the utilities responsibility.
 
“However, given the safety of the traveling public is at stake here, and no other government agency has the proper equipment and expertise for this type of work, perhaps ASPA would consider this request favorably to minimize the potential hazard to pedestrians and motorists,” he wrote to Utu and offered his help to work with ASPA to visit the areas mentioned and coordinate what can be done as soon as possible.
 
A copy of Sanitoa’s letter was also sent to DPW, Tualauta lawmakers and other ASG entities. DPW has jurisdiction over the rest of the trees next to the road and other areas.
 
Utu told Samoa News late last week that this issue regarding tree trimming was being addressed. (Utu was off-island for meetings when he responded to Samoa News email questions)
 
In the middle of strong winds last week, Samoa News received inquiries from residents traveling along the road in the Malaeimi as well as other areas of Tualauta about tree branches hanging into power lines during the windy weather. Other concerns were about coconuts falling off several coconut trees along the road and on to cars or pedestrians.
 
Last Friday, Sanitoa received word from Reuben Siatu’u of DPW, saying that DPW has been coordinating the work with Sofeni Lualemaga of ASPA and they have “scheduled with our maintenance crew the cutting of the coconut trees in Malaeimi next to Tui’s Market”. The work was to begin yesterday.
 
Sanitoa responded with an email thanking Siatu’u and Lualemaga for the great help in coordinating the tree-trimming project. He also send a “big fa’afetai tele and fa’amalo” to Utu and DPW director Faleosina Voight for “their tremendous support.”
 
“I'm pleased to report that HC Puailoa and family has agreed that it would be best to cut down those over-hanging coconut trees in Malaeimi as they pose serious safety issues for the traveling public,” he wrote to Siatu’u and Lualemaga.
 
Two residents who had previously called Samoa News about trees on the Malaeimi road were contacted over the weekend about the latest update on this “tree-trimming project”.
 
“It is great to see government agencies working with the Fono to address public concerns,” said one of the residents in a brief phone interview. “It is refreshing to hear positive news that this new administration, along with its new directors, is keeping its promise of ‘People First’.”
 
The other resident offered thanks to Sanitoa, DPW and ASPA staff for thinking about the community and their safety.



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