Federal funding for Aunu’u wharf project the result of local “team work”
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The successful submission and award of more than $2 million in federal funding for reconstruction of the Aunu’u Wharf was the result of “team work and working together for the benefit of the people,” says Lisa Tuato’o director of the ASG Office of Disaster Assistance and Petroleum Management (ODAPM), which submitted the Port Administration Department’s Aunu’u wharf grant application to the federal government.
The final revised application — submitted in late May this year to the U.S Department of Transportation (US-DOT) — shows estimated total cost of the project at $2.65 million, with $2.12 million requested in federal funds — which is no more than 80% of total eligible costs — while non-federal sources for $530,000, is the local match from Port Administration.
Last week Thursday, the US-DOT and Congresswoman Uifa’atali Amata announced in separate news releases that $2.12 million in funds through US-DOT Maritime Administration’s 2022 Port Infrastructure Development Program (PIDP) had been awarded for reconstruction of the Aunu’u Wharf, which is the only access point in and out of Aunu’u Island.
The funding is made possible by the federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL). In preparation for this and other infrastructure improvements ASG has already established a BIL TEAM, which holds weekly meetings, led by Tuato’o, with the support of ODAPM.
The final Aunu’u Wharf application was worked on by Port Administration engineers Natalia Palamo and Mika Aga, Port deputy directors Tumua Matu’u and Falenaoti LoiOn-Fruean as well as Port director Chris King; along with ODAPM staff Lima Fiatoa, Sandi Tonumaipea, Camilla Stevenson Poufa “as a collaborative effort in maximizing funding opportunities afforded under the BIL funding.”
“We work together, we win together as a BIL teamwork for overall good of the people of American Samoa,” Tuato’o told Samoa News after the US-DOT announced the Aunu’u Wharf reconstruction award funds.
Included in the Port Administration’s application is a May 13, 2022 local-match commitment letter from LoiOn-Fruean to US-DOT’s Maritime Administration, in her capacity at the time as Port acting director.
The letter states in part that Port Administration “understands and agrees” that if it receives federal funding from the PIDP program a result of the application in the amount of $2.65 million, then Port Administration will accept financial responsibility and commit the required matching for the project in the amount of $530,000.
In addition, Port Administration understands that the federal cost share of the project may be increased above 80% at the discretion of the Secretary of Transportation if a project is located in a rural area.
“American Samoa is identified as a historically disadvantaged community and the project is a smaller port located 1.6 miles off the eastern cost of Tutuila, therefore consideration for an increase in federal share would be appreciated,” LoiOn-Fruean wrote to the US-DOT’s Maritime Administration.
According to the budget breakdown of the project, outlined in the application:
• $2 million is allocated for construction, which covers all labor and materials for construction, including any temporary works;
• $500,000 for “design and environmental permitting” — that includes site investigations, environmental surveys and all local and federal permitting;
• $100,000 budget for Port Administration for administration costs, which includes submission of required reports to the federal grantor; and
• $50,000 for “construction management”.
The 31-page application provides a summary narrative of the budget spending for the project, and other pertinent details required by US-DOT.
On the issue of “site investigation”, the application states that the geotechnical investigation phase of the project is to identity the physical properties of soil earthworks and foundations for the proposed structures.
“The selected consultant will investigate the soil and geologic conditions of a property to determine the structural integrity of the existing wharf. This phase will also include the tracing and mapping of existing utilities,” according to Port Administration.
The budget narrative also shows a “preliminary design phase” which Port Administration says is intended to identify and evaluate alternatives to assure cost effective and practical solutions for the work items identified.
And the preliminary design will take advantage of local knowledge and experience and utilize expertise from recent construction projects to design a cost-effective project and ensure competitive construction bids.
There is also the “final design” phase which includes — among other things — the complete preliminary plan and design for facilities; recommendations for construction options to Port Administration for their review; and complete estimates of probable construction costs for the recommended alternatives.
A separate document included with the application shows that an assessment was carried out last September by Port Administration’s Engineering Division on the condition of the Aunu’u Wharf, which was built in 1981 by the U.S Army Corps of Engineers to serve as the sole mode of transportation to and from the island of Aunu’u.
The assessment report, released in November 2021, provides findings of the wharf inspection, which shows that that there is a “dire need to build a new wharf” for Aunu’u island, that has a land area of 374.83 acres.
“The current wharf is not adequate to handle transportation and this is made worse with the rising sea level. Immediate action must be taken to ensure that there will be no halt to the import of goods for the island,” the report says.
Among the three inspection findings, cited in the assessment report, is that the concrete structure of the wharf is in very poor condition. Additionally, it’s evident from a visual inspection that the surface is deteriorating and it will soon be unsafe to maintain operations.
It also says that Port Administration maintenance division, along with Aunu’u residents have attempted patch-work on the wharf, “but that too is declining rapidly.”
The current wharf is also too small and unsafe when docking and transferring daily essential cargo, fuel, and passengers. There are no ramps from the dock to the boat, so it is not ADA (American with Disability Act) accessible.
And when the American Samoa Power Authority (ASPA) sends fuel to the island, it places a piece of wood from the vessel to the dock, and rolls fuel drums to the wharf.
“Over the years, there [has] also been a rise in tidal ranges, which has caused the existing dock to become inundated from the surf during high tide, and especially adverse weather, thus causing an unsafe environment for the transferring of cargo to and from the vessels that call to port,” the inspection found.
The report suggests conducting a geotechnical study of the structure and haveinga diver perform a full inspection of the wharf piles and understructure. “Demolish and build new wharf,” the report recommends.
While Port Administration has continued to maintain the Aunu’u Wharf, “in its current state, it has been determined that the main wharf structure would fail under a 100-year storm event,” the application states.
The project will reconstruct the existing wharf; perform structural repairs to the existing pilings; construct a new 80-foot-long extension to the wharf; repair and upgrade the existing ramp structure; dredge any excess material surrounding the wharf; and install a new fendering system, bollards, and cleats.
Additionally, the project ensures that the new wharf is ADA (American With Disabilities Act) compliant so that the wharf is accessible for all passengers.
“Rebuilding a structurally sound wharf will eliminate the immediate risk of structural failure during its daily operations and major weather event. It is imperative that the structural integrity of the wharf does not fail,” said Port Administration in the application.
And during the design phase of the project, all codes and standards will be complied with, and recent flood analysis data reviewed.
Port Administration, according to the application, also looked at relocation the wharf, but it says: “Costs would be significant [as well as] impacts to the marine environment. An alternative site on the island would have to be analyzed, which would take up more time and resources, as the existing wharf continues to deteriorate.
“Reconstruction and extending the existing wharf are the most cost efficient and environmentally friendly option, to ensure transportation to Aunu’u continues,” it says.
Citing information from the 2020 Census, the application notes that Aunu’u is home to 402 people. There are no medical facilities or stores on the island, and no airport. There are 101 residential homes, a few churches and an elementary school located on Aunu’u.