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FEMA funding for Fagaima Flood Mitigation Project falls far short of cost

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Shortage to be covered by “in-kind and local match” hazard officer says

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The U.S Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) award letter on the Fagaima Flood Mitigation Project, overseen by the Department of Public Works, has revealed that the total cost of the project is more than $8 million with the federal agency funding the “maximum amount”.

And new information has surfaced on how the rest of the project is being funded and when it’s to be completed.

Congresswoman Aumua Amata first announced in late August this year the $3.1 million for the project from FEMA covering 37% of the total cost. (See Samoa News edition Aug. 25th for details).

A Sept. 10th award letter, from FEMA Region 9 Mitigation Division director, Kathryn Lipiecki to Lt. Gov. Talauega Eleasalo V. Ale, the Governor’s Authorized Representative (GAR), announced approval of the $3.16 million for the project and revealed that the total cost is just over $8.53 million.

“While this disaster has been approved for a 90% federal cost share, the cost of this project exceeds the available funding,” Lipiecki wrote to Talauega, saying that FEMA is obligating more than $3.16 million which is the maximum amount of federal funding for this project; while the non-Federal share is more than $5.37 million — which includes the over-match from the sub-applicant.

The ASG Office of Disaster Assistance and Petroleum Management (ODAPM) is involved in the project, which includes the application process and ensuring compliance with all federal regulations.

ODAPM’s state hazard mitigation officer Ulima Lisa Fiatoa, shared the FEMA award letter with Public Works director, Faleosina Voigt, who was informed that the approved work schedule is 18 months with a completion date of Mar. 10, 2023.

As identified in the original application, the “remaining $5.37 million of the total project cost will be a combination of in-kind and local match,” Fiatoa wrote, and requested that ODAPM staff be kept engaged throughout the process to ensure compliance and smooth transitioning for closeout.

Samoa News wasn’t immediately able to obtain additional details from ASG regarding the type of “in-kind” funds, while a government official says the “local match” will come from ASG’s coffer. The official wasn’t sure at press time as to the funding source of the “local match”.

In an email letter late last week, Tualauta Rep. Larry S. Sanitoa congratulated Voigt and her DPW team as well as ODAPM director Lisa Tuato’o and her team, “for due diligence and hard work” resulting in the approved Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) grant.

“This is most welcome news for the residents of Tafuna as well as motorists who frequent the Fagaima road,” Sanitoa said in a recent email messages to Voigt and Tuato’o.

Talauega was informed by FEMA that the HMGP grant approval and obligation of funds are subject to several conditions, which includes the project’s completion date of Mar. 10, 2023. It was noted that sub-recipient work completed after this date is not eligible for Federal funding, and that Federal funds may be de-obligated for work completed outside the completion date when there is no approved time extension.

The FEMA award letter states that the project’s scope of work calls for constructing a drainage system in Fagaima where it is flooded during storm events and heavy rainfall, and the project site is within the Tafuna Plain.

The project will intercept streamflow of Leaveave Stream before it reaches the Route 019-Route 018 intersection, which will allow for safe vehicular and pedestrian traffic and prevent homes and village accesses and driveways from being flooded, according to the scope of work.

A separate “Obligation Report” included with the FEMA letter provides more specific details of the project and other information with which ASG must comply.