Gopher tortoises leave water plant amid $6 million project

gopher tortoise bob walker

Bob Walker holds one of six gopher tortoises found near Crestview's wastewater treatment plant last week. Walker and three members from Nokuse Plantation relocated the reptiles to their new Freeport habitat.

Special to the News Bulletin
Published: Wednesday, March 20, 2013 at 06:10 PM.

CRESTVIEW — Six gopher tortoises have relocated from the city's waste water treatment plant on Arena Road to Nokuse Plantation in Freeport following a $6 million water system overhaul.

Three females, two males and one juvenile gopher tortoise were relocated to the 51,000-acre plantation to make room for an ongoing expansion at the plant.

"We are adding five rapid infiltration basins” to keep up with the city’s growth, Jayne Swift, the plant’s project manager, said.

The basins will help the plant manage treated water as it is released back into the soil and into Florida's aquifer, which further purifies it.

Morgan Contracting in Baker is adding the basins as part of the renovations to the CH2MHILL-operated facility. Other additions include new pumps and a new chlorine basin that also treats the water. The project should be finished by summer 2014.

"We signed a contract with the city in February (of this year)," said Mike Tucker, the contractor’s project manager. "Part of that contract was bringing on a biologist for the relocation of the tortoises."

"They originally thought there was only three nesting burrows, but there were 10," Tucker said.

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