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$2.5 million project moves ahead

By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, America Samoa (Samoa News, April 6, 2009) - The Malaloa Marina Redevelopment has passed the first of several hurdles to get the project moving after the lease agreement between ASG and a local company to develop the marina, with an estimated cost of $2.5 million, was finally certified last Friday.

The "long term lease" was signed early last month by Governor Togiola Tulafono but the final signatures that include one from the Attorney General’s Office were given Friday and then officially notarized, said David Robinson, president of the Chamber of Commerce.

(A government source, familiar with the lease, told Samoa News Sunday morning the lease would not require Fono approval because it’s just under 10 years but it will require legislative approval in the future if the company exercises the option of "about 25 to 30 years" to extend the lease).

More than a year ago, the Chamber established a non-profit organization called the Private Economic Advisory Council with the goal to look for economic development opportunities as well as funding sources and securing the necessary partners in getting projects moved forward.

An economic development identified early on was the redevelopment of the Malaloa marina and this was also one of the economic development projects cited in last year’s report by the Governor’s Economic Advisory Council, which is co-chaired by Robinson and Dr. Oreta Togafau, a policy advisor to the governor.

During an address to the Chamber last October the governor said he will sign the lease for the marina development, which has been targeted by the Chamber.

But with last year being an election year, followed by other pressing administration matters, the governor finally signed early last month the lease between ASG and a newly established locally-based company called Marina Development Limited, set up to specifically develop the marina.

Robinson told Samoa News on Saturday that he is the company’s president, Tago Seva’aetasi is a company director and Seva’aetasi’s daughter Gwen Pedwell, is the company secretary.

"Just three officers for the time being so that we can get the marina development moving forward, but as time goes by, we’ll invite shareholders to invest in this worthy development for our territory," said Robinson, who left last night for Honolulu to attend the Interior Department Business Opportunities for the Islands, in which the marina development is being promoted as an investment opportunity.

"The governor, along with his staff and other top ASG officials are very supportive of this development and we hope the DOI conference will attract more interest," said Robinson, adding the company has a "long term lease in place to allow the development of the marina to move forward."

The lease, which covers 400 feet of shoreline in the Malaloa marina area, calls for the company to "commence construction within 24 months" once the lease is fully executed, said Robinson.

Prior to obtaining all the necessary signatures for the lease agreement, Robinson contacted many local, federal agencies to make them aware in advance of their proposal.

"Let’s just say that I wanted to make sure that there were no problems encountered in the future once the project gets going," said Robinson, who had discussed this project in advance with Port Administration, U.S. Coast Guard, the Harbor Master, the local Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Parks and Recreation.

While in Honolulu, Robinson said he will be meeting with officials of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineer, because a permit is also required from this federal agency in order for the development to start. Local permits are also required such as land use permits, he said.

"We also have a draft preliminary environmental assessment report on this project," said Robinson. "At this point there are a lot of hurdles to go through before construction actually gets underway. We are going to abide by all local and federal rules and regulations to ensure full compliance."

"I have tried to get many people involved or made aware of this project at the early stages so there are no hold ups or setbacks later on down the road," said Robinson. "I am so very thankful for everyone’s support."

Robinson said the estimated investment at this point stands at between $2 to $2.5 million and the company’s key partner is U.S.-based Bellingham Marine, an international company with an office in New Zealand.

"Bellingham Marine is one of the largest marina developers in the U.S. and we have been talking with their representatives in New Zealand about this project," said Robinson. "We have entered into a pre-construction agreement with Bellingham Marine that helped with the marina development in Apia."

The company’s New Zealand representatives are scheduled to be on island on April 22 for "part one" of the agreement, which includes a site inspection and assessment, said Robinson.

The officials will provide an inspection report of the site (which includes taking "depth surroundings"), and to draw up a draft concept design, budget and costing and to assess the feasibility, said Robinson.

Current plan for the site calls for the building on land, a mini Samoan village that includes dive shop, diving instruction, a fish gaming center, harbor tours, a large aquarium and other tourist related activities.

The marina will have 80 berths and on-shore facilities, such as sewage pump-out, trash collection and fuel depot. One focus for the facility is to provide a game fishing club, "in an effort to involve American Samoa in international game fishing activities, which is a big tourist attraction for many countries," said Robinson.

The company is also looking at charter boats, in which interested people around the world can just fly to American Samoa, and charter a boat to tour our surrounding islands and waters and even go diving, he said.

"We have been talking to a number of interested international companies in the charter boat industry to come here to do business," said Robinson. He said the company has included in its plans a website accessible from around the world to further promote not only American Samoa but what the marina has to offer.

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