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Gov concerned after DOE and Commerce bypass land use permit

Location of DOE's new trade high school

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The Lemanu and Talauega Administration’s Chief of Staff, Loa Tauapa’i Tuimavave Mulipola has expressed “disappointment” of government departments that are not “abiding by laws and policies” when it comes to steps taken before implementing any government project.

“This concern is also shared by Governor Lemanu P. S Mauga. Bypassing laws and policies is not an option. The responsible Directors should be vigilant to ensure” that projects are following procedures when it comes to attaining permits for projects before it starts, said Loa in an interview with Samoa News.

Loa’s comments follow concerns by members of the public over the work being  conducted behind the American Samoa Community College for a new trade school without a land use permit.

To date the AS Department of Education and Department of Commerce have not responded to any of Samoa News questions pertaining to this issue.

It was members of the public that point to the project in light of construction companies and families have to go through a stringent and lengthy process to retain a Land Use Permit prior to the construction of their projects, yet for government projects the policies are not being upheld.

On Sept 21, 2022 the Project Notification and Review System Board met and this project was on the agenda under “ASDOEc/o Samasoni Asaeli proposal for demolition and excavation, Mapusaga; 22-9219-ASG.

However the project started back in July.

Loa told Samoa News the government should strive to follow their own policies.

Samoa News put it to the Chief of Staff that the government puts laws in place for every one to follow — so why is the government any different when it comes to attaining permits for government projects?

“No, there shouldn’t be any difference,” said Loa.

There is only one law for everyone, including the government if they fail to follow due process and again if they fail to do that then that department should take the blame,” he said.

The Chief of Staff said these issues are addressed by the Governor and all the government departments are urged to uphold laws in place for projects.

“The Directors all need to understand that they need get the permits in place before any project, it’s not that hard,” he said.


According to Chapter 02 - Coastal ManagementTitle 26 - Environment Safety and Land Management

“All persons proposing to undertake any action which may cause or threaten an adverse impact to coastal resources shall apply for a land use permit, except where specifically exempted by law.

“A land use permit means a written authorization signed by the Director on an approved form that authorizes a specified party to undertake a specified project, use or action.

“A land use permit application is necessary for all physical project work, including, but not limited to site preparation, filling, grading, dredging, excavation, and erection or siting of structures.”

Furthermore Land use permit application forms shall be made available at the Department of Commerce. The completed land use permit application shall be filed with the Department of Commerce for review at any time during normal business hours.

“The land use permit application shall be accompanied by a vicinity map; a fully dimensioned site plan that shall include topographic data at a scale appropriate to discern the principal features of the site, a functional floor plan, a container plan, and a parking plan; an erosion control plan necessary to reduce non-point source pollution that includes existing contours and proposed final grading of the site, existing and proposed drainage, a description of adjacent and down slope sites, and a narrative of how the proposed drainage plan will impact those sites; or any other supporting documentation that may be required by law or by the provisions of the chapter.

“All information submitted with the application or at any other time in the review process shall be public information, provided that certain proprietary information, not material to a review of project compliance, may be withheld if requested in writing to the Chair and such request is approved.”

Furthermore the Board shall not issue a land use permit until all administrative fees, after-the-fact penalties, stop work orders, or citations, as consistent with this chapter, are resolved.

“In the case of work commenced without a land use permit, should the Board determine that the applicant is not eligible for a land use permit, the applicant shall restore the site to its pre-work condition.

“If the applicant refuses or is unable to take the required remedial action, the American Samoa Government may perform the necessary remedial action, and the applicant shall be financially responsible for all costs associated with the necessary remedial action to restore the site to its pre-work condition.”

The PNRS board are made of directors or their designee of  agencies ehich have permitting or regulatory authority on land use development and environmental matters in the coastal zone.

Department of Commerce; American Samoa Environmental Protection Agency; American Samoa Historic Preservation Office; American Samoa Power Authority; Department of Health; Department of Marine and Wildlife Resources; Department of Parks and Recreation; and Department of Public Works.

Mandates of the PNRS board shall convene regular meetings or special meetings at times and places as determined by the Chair.

Minutes of all meetings shall be kept and shall be reviewed and approved by the Board and made available to the public upon request. Board proceedings shall be informal and presided over by the Chair. The presence of five members shall constitute a quorum.

“Regular meetings shall be scheduled for the first and third Wednesday of each month, unless the Director determines that rescheduling is appropriate due to a public holiday or a government function.

“Special meetings may be scheduled by the Director upon receiving a written request from a land use permit applicant that the Board’s review of a project, use or activity is necessary rather than at the regular meeting dates. All procedures and policies shall be applied to special meetings.

“All meetings of the Board shall be open to the public and public notice shall be given. The Board may adjourn and reconvene in executive session for the purpose of consulting with staff regarding legal, technical, and personnel matters. Minutes of the executive session are confidential and shall be stored in such a manner to protect confidentiality.”