Amata Highlights American Samoa’s Position on Protected Reef

July 23, 2021
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Congresswoman Uifa’atali Amata highlighted American Samoa’s position on protected coral reefs in a Wednesday hearing of the Natural Resources Committee’s Subcommittee on Water, Oceans and Wildlife (WOW). The oversight hearing was titled, “Examining the President’s Fiscal Year 2022 Budget Proposal for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.” 


Amata at hearing where she discussed coral reefs
Amata in the Hearing where she discussed coral reefs


The expert witness panel included Mr. David Palumbo, Deputy Commissioner of Operations, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation; Dr. Don Cline, Associate Director of Water Resources, U.S. Geological Survey; Mr. Stephen D. Guertin, Deputy Director for Program Management and Policy, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; and Dr. Richard W. Spinrad, Administrator, NOAA.

In her questions to the panel, Amata sought more information on federal and local overlap, noting that there is already a protection in place by American Samoa Government, and that federal protections could exceed threatened coral and extend to other areas.

Amata addressed her first question to Dr. Spinrad: “About two months ago American Samoa’s Governor Lemanu Mauga sent a letter to acting Assistant Administrator Paul Doremus regarding additional federal regulation for coral critical habitat that are already protected under American Samoa law. While I am sure we are all on the same side of safeguarding our natural resources, Gov. Lemanu expressed concerns that the proposed designated area ‘covers a large area of coral reef habitat and does not reflect the critical habitat of threatened corals’ and that it is ‘redundant with other local and federal regulations.’ How does NOAA intend to build a more efficient relationship with state and territorial authorities, and how do you intend to account for their local autonomy when it comes to preservation efforts?

Additionally, Amata asked the panel: “I want to extend that same question to the other witnesses. Basically, what I want to know is, how does the administration intend to address redundancies between federal and local action?”


Amata and other Committee Members in the Hearing RoomAmata and other Members in the Committee Room


In response, Dr. Spinrad pointed to the necessity for consistency in coastal management plans, and engagement among ASG, fisheries council and federal agencies, including to resolve any conflicts. 

Mr. Guertin said the key is partnerships with local governments and private landowners, and said “there’s no interest in going out and doing a, quote, ‘federal land grab,’” but prioritized working in partnership, and put an emphasis on access.

Mr. Palumbo said the Bureau values local relationships and would work to get things done on the ground in a responsible way, alongside partners.


Amata highlights American Samoa’s position on protected reef