Lolo proposes 50-50 costs sharing for the Malaloa dock extension
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Just over $1 million is allocated under federal Capital Improvement Project money for the Malaloa wharf-dock extension construction project, for which Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga had last year proposed to the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council to share in the cost of construction.
However, the Council, which has provided more than $100,000 in funding for the project’s design, has informed the governor that the federal fishery management agency lacks funding to help with construction.
While on island last week for the 2018 Flag Day celebration, US Interior Assistant Secretary for Insular Areas, Doug Domenech met with Lolo and signed on Apr. 19th over $10.6 million in fiscal year 2018 CIP funding to cover several infrastructure projects for ASG.
According to a USDOI news release on Apr. 19th, Port Administration is allocated $1.65 million in CIP funding and of that amount $1.3 million is for construction to extend the existing Malaloa wharf-dock.
“This extension will address the need for extra docking space to service longline fishery vessels… The tuna industry in American Samoa is the largest employer and provides the largest export product for the territory,” according to the release.
(It should be noted that longline fishery vessels are the sole suppliers of albacore tuna to StarKist Samoa.)
The funding allocation is being welcomed by the Council, which has contributed about $194,000 in the last two years to Port Administration as part of an agreement for a feasibility study and the design for an extension of the Malaloa Marina for the US longline vessel fleet based in American Samoa.
The Council coordinated with officials from ASG in hopes of having the project included as part of the CIP list, but it was not part of the list released early last year, prompting concerns from the Council, which approved a recommendation during last October’s meeting in Pago Pago for ASG to commit to identifying funds to be utilized for the construction of the longline dock extension or the Council will consider reprograming those funds.
This was reiterated early this year during the Council’s meeting in Honolulu.
Of interest, last Wednesday, the Governor’s Office released Lolo’s Aug. 1, 2017 letter to Council executive director, Kitty Simonds, proposing a 50-50 cost share for dock extension construction. Release of the letter to the media, came a day before the FY 2018 CIP funding allocation was signed between Lolo and Domenech.
In the Aug. 1, 2017 letter, Lolo proposed a “partnership” with the Council facilitating the construction of “this critically needed facility” for a “fifty-fifty percent... cost sharing arrangement” on the total construction cost of a proposed new 400-feet wharf/dock facility.
The council executive director responded in a Nov. 9, 2017 letter to Lolo, but the letter was never made public.
Because the Governor’s Office has released Lolo’s Aug. 1, 2017 letter, Samoa News requested — and the Council released to Samoa News last Thursday — Simonds' Nov. 9, 2017 letter.
In her response letter, Simonds said the Council appreciates the suggested cost-sharing agreement. “However, the Council does not have the funding now, or in the foreseeable future,” she wrote to Lolo. “Therefore, the Council hopes that your administration identifies funds to construct the wharf extension and provide docking space for longline vessels, which has been a priority identified in the Pago Pago Harbor development plans for over 20 years.”
Simonds noted the Council’s disappointment that it provided more than $190,000 to the project, which “has been stalled for 2 years.”
“While we understand that Port Administration may be using the Council-provided funds for a new consultant to finish the scope of work, we are deeply concerned that we may have to be forced to reprogram the funds,” she said.
A Council staff Report states that Port Administration canceled its contract with Beca Inc. to design the dock and complete a geotechnical survey of the benthic area around the project site.
“As of February 6, 2018, a new contract has been executed with Tinai, Gordon and Associates Ltd. from neighboring Samoa to complete this first phase of the project,” according to the report submitted ahead of the Council meeting in Honolulu this past March.
Responding to Samoa News follow-up inquiries, the Council said last Friday they are reviewing the Governor’s letter for cost-sharing and will be responding.
“However, the Council does not have the funding levels to fulfill the Governor’s 50-50 cost sharing proposal and so the Council’s position remains the same as stated in its Nov. 9 letter,” it says.
“We expect the ASG to secure the full amount to construct the dock extension. The Council is not withdrawing the funding already provided and understands the Department of Port Administration will complete the dock design by June 30,” according to the Council when asked if it will withdraw its contribution to the project.
Responding to the $1.3 million included in CIP funding for the project, Simonds said, the Council is pleased that Lolo included funds for the longline dock.
“A big mahalo” to Domenech for approving the funds and supporting the American Samoa longline industry, which supports the cannery, she said.
What remains unclear at this point is the total construction cost of the dock extension. Port Administration hasn’t responded to Samoa News inquiries sent last Thursday.