Frogs are delaying another wastewater treatment facility project, this time at the South San Luis Obispo County Sanitation District in Oceano.
The South SLO County Sanitation District members are working to upgrade the nearly 50 year old facility, but the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) is concerned construction could impact the California red-legged frog, a species on the verge of being endangered.
Construction is schedule throughout wet weather, which is when male frogs are likely to travel long distances to mate according to biologists.
The wastewater treatment facility processes nearly 2.5 million gallons of water a day. The amount increases to about 3.5 million during the wet season.
The district administrator, Jeremy Ghent, said some of the machines have been running for nearly 30 years and need to be cleaned out and upgraded.
"We were expecting to avoid the California red-legged frog during construction, but the U.S. Fish and Wildlife disagree with that opinion," said Jeremy Ghent, South SLO County Sanitation District administrator.
According to a district staff report, biologists working for the district said the project is "not likely to adversely affect the frog" the USFWS biologists were "concerned about known frog populations in Meadow Lagoon and Arroyo Grande Creek."
The district now has the option to apply for something called a "take" permit which would allow an on-site biologist to relocate a California red-legged frog if one were to show up during construction.
If the board of directors opts out of the permit, it could mean even more project delays.
"We have to have permission to even relocate the frog and if we move forward without the permit and a frog entered the site, the construction would have to stop and we would have to wait for the frog to move on it's own accord," said Ghent.
The district needs to comply with U.S Fish and Wildlife Service if they want federal funding from the USDA for the nearly $30 million project.
In the staff report, the USFWS also said it wants to be consistent when reviewing such projects like the Morro Bay Reclamation Facility.
District members will meet on Wednesday to discuss the permit application. The project is being delayed about 75 days and is scheduled to be complete in 2023.