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Rep. Sanitoa calls for House review of StarKist freezer plan

Concerned with the status of federal funding for renovation of the main dock, now that the StarKist Samoa storage freezer is to be built in the same area, Rep. Larry Sanitoa yesterday called for a House Transportation Committee hearing to review the issue, along with the matter of an environmental impact study for the site.

The Tualauta faipule made the verbal request during yesterday’s House session and Rep. Alexander Eli Jennings, chairman of the transportation committee, has scheduled a hearing for next Monday.

Sanitoa says he is concerned with the $7 million in federal funding awarded for the wharf renovation project that may be in jeopardy due to the proposed freezer facility. Both Jennings and Rep. Pulele’iite Tufele agreed with the concern.

Sanitoa cited recent reports that the government has signed a lease with StarKist Samoa, allowing the cannery to build a cold storage freezer on ASG land between the main Port Administration and the Inter Island dock.

“Although I am supportive of government efforts to help out Star Kist — being they are one of the largest employers on island — I am equally concerned about the adverse impact that has not been considered,” Sanitoa told Samoa News. “Department of Interior’s Office of Insular Affairs has allocated approximately $7 million in Capital Improvement Project (CIP) funding for major improvements of the wharf.”

“Given the location of Star Kist's Cold Storage Freezer, I am concerned now if this new facility might cause a delay or — worst case — jeopardize our government's ability to get the needed funding from DOI for wharf improvements,” he said.

“As I understand it, DOI is also concerned as to where public vessels like the MV Sili and tug boats will be moved, once the freezer is constructed,” Sanitoa said. “These are all critical issues that should be taken into consideration before moving forward with any major facility plans on government property.”

“In addition, I have requested the [House] committee to see if there was an Environmental Impact Study done in reference to the freezer site and the new building,” he said. “Such a study should address any relevant concerns with regards to the location and site of a cold storage facility.”

Chamber of Commerce chairman David Robinson recently told Samoa News that the business organization is also concerned, saying that the location of the freezer facility “may not be the most suitable from an environmental perspective”. This view was also supported by Sen. Lualemaga Faoa, along with area residents who have signed a petition objecting to the freezer location.