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Submission deadline for Fagatele Bay set for March 9

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (The Samoa News, Jan. 30, 2012) – Congressman Faleomavaega Eni announced early last week that he has been informed by the Office of Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs for the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) that NOAA has agreed to extend the comment period for their proposed rule to add five new sites to the Fagatele Bay National Marine Sanctuary (FBNMS). The new deadline for comments is March 9, 2012.

The initial deadline was Jan. 6, but several local residents complained that more time should be given to the public to provide comments.

Faleomavaega thanked NOAA and FBNMS officials for extending the comment period.

"During the town hall meeting I convened at the Fono Guest House on January 11, 2012, I respectfully made the request for an extension," he said. "As I said then, the January 6 deadline was impractical given that it immediately followed the Christmas and New Year holidays and the public did not have enough time to submit their comments."

"Making things even tougher, many have expressed concerns that they do not have access to computers while some do not have the technical skills to fully utilize and access the website to submit comments online," Faleomavaega noted.

"In light of this recent development, I encourage all stakeholders and interested parties who were going to send our office their petitions to do so immediately. It is my intent to submit my final comment no later than around the end of February next month," Faleomavaega said.

"I am very pleased that the public is allowed more opportunity to participate in the discussion and express their views on this important issue," he added.

Written comments can be submitted to the Fagatele Bay National Marine Sanctuary (FBNMS) office at the Commerce Department. Comments may also be submitted electronically via the Federal eRulemaking Portal by clicking "Submit a Comment," then enter NOAA-NOS-2011-0243 in the keyword search. Locate the document you wish to comment on from the resulting list and click on the "Submit a Comment" icon on the right of that line.

Meanwhile, Faleomavaega announced Thursday that President Barack Obama’s recent proposal to reorganize and streamline federal agencies includes a transfer of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) from the U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC) to the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI).

He said this is the latest proposal for reorganization and streamlining of federal agencies proposed by the Obama Administration.

"It is important to note, however, that Congress has the final word on any upcoming federal agency reorganization. At this point the President has asked Congress for the authorization to officially submit his proposal. If this authority is granted, the President’s proposal must then go up for a Congressional vote," he said.

"Considering American Samoa’s position in the Pacific and our reliance on the environment and especially the seas for our survival and economic vitality, NOAA’s services and programs have been significantly tied to our Territorial affairs," Faleomavaega stated.

Faleomavaega intends to keep the public informed of the latest developments regarding the potential restructuring of NOAA as this issue evolves.

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