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Gita hazard mitigation funds proposed as a solution to Fagaima flooding

Fagaima flooding

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The American Samoa government is looking at federal funding under a hazard mitigation grant program to address drainage problems at Fagaima after Tropical Storm Gita. The Fagaima area is one of the most hard-hit parts of the territory during heavy rain and it was only made worse during Gita last year.

The long standing flooding problems throughout Fagaima have been discussed many times in the Fono over the years with Department of Public Works and other ASG officials. The government had also been working on ways to address drainage problems, as more homes and rock walls are built in the area.

Tualauta Rep. Larry Sanitoa is again taking up the status of ASG’s mitigation plan for Fagaima, where at one point, during the heavy down-pour on Feb. 23, a young-man was captured on cell phone video padding a kayak through the flooded Fagaima road while traffic passed by slowly.

The latest development in funding for Fagaima drainage using Gita mitigation funds from the US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) was revealed during email exchanges last week between Sanitoa and Lima Fiatoa with the ASG’s Office of Disaster Assistance and Petroleum Management (ODAPM).

A Feb. 27 email from Sanitoa to Fiatoa was a follow up from previous email messages — on the latest update of the Tualauta Mitigation project, which has been on the table since 2009.

“Given the numerous times the application has been submitted and denied, is the project still being considered?” he asked, noting that ASG is looking at other options and alternative plans.

Sanitoa points out that the ongoing run-off water and flooding problems plaguing Tualauta County especially the Tafuna plains “for many years is becoming extremely difficult to deal with.”

Fiatoa responded the same day, revealing that, “we are currently working on the Fagaima Drainage to be submitted within the coming week.” Additionally, “we have an opportunity to obtain funding” under Gita hazard mitigation funds.

Furthermore, Fiatoa is working with an official at DPW, who is putting the application narrative together as well as “updating the project cost estimate as well as the Benefit Cost Analysis (BCA) to show FEMA that our project is cost effective.”

In response to Fiatoa email message, Sanitoa says he’s hopeful that the current efforts by ODAPM and DPW “will have a better outcome this time.”

“Given the number of property damages - i.e. flooded homes and stalled vehicles etc. for many years should be sufficient for your BCA” to FEMA, he informed Fiatoa.

Last Thursday, Sanitoa informed American Samoa Power Authority acting executive director, Wallon Young that ODAPM and DPW are working on an application for the Fagaima Drainage to be funded by Gita hazard mitigation funds.

Sanitoa also recalled a House ASPA Committee hearing last month where there was mention of ASPA working on a Filtration System to support the Tafuna Wells.

“In knowing that, I recommended that perhaps ASPA would consider building a catchment pit or a reservoir at the source of the run-off water as part of the mitigation plan,” Sanitoa said.

“Specifically, build one by the area up at Faleniu [village] or by Vui Florence Saulo's home in Tafuna — to address the flooding problem in the Tafuna plains,” he suggested. “The water collected from the catchment or reservoir can go through the filtration system and be used by ASPA.”

He also suggested a possible meeting for ASPA with ODAPM and DPW “to look at some possibilities.”

In his reply the same day Young said, “We will study the proposal to install a catchment or a reservoir at the source of the run-off water.” There was no mention of Sanitoa’s suggestion for a meeting.

Several ASG officials were copied in the email exchanges between Sanitoa and Faitoa as well as Young.