WALLA WALLA, Wash. – A herd of goats will arrive during the weekend to remove weeds and other vegetation growing on levees that border the creek shoreline extending from the Mill Creek diversion dam downstream to the metal division works foot bridge near the Mill Creek Office. Contractors who manage the goat-grazing service will arrive on Friday, June 15, to set up fencing.
The first phase of grazing is planned for the forebay above the dam at Rooks Park. The goats will be removing invasive Reed Canary Grass around the debris barrier upstream of the diversion dam. This area is not typically used by visitors and will be closed while the goats are there. The goats will be contained within electric fencing while working, accompanied by professional herding dogs and shepherds.
Once the forebay area is completed, the goats will work their way downstream along the levee on the paved side of the creek, then upstream along the levee on the gravel side of the creek. Dogs (pets) will be required to be leashed on both sides of the creek while the goats are working on the levees. This temporary rule is essential for the safety of the dogs and the goats. There is potential for unleashed pets to come into contact with the electric fence causing them to get shocked, as well as potential for conflicts between pets and working dogs. Park rangers will post signs and conduct extra patrols to ensure visitors have their dogs leashed and under physical control while the goats are working on the Corps levees.
Based on past years’ grazing projects and current contractor schedule estimates, the temporary leash rule will need to be in effect for about 4 weeks, while the levees are being managed for vegetation.
Visitors are already required to keep their pets under control and carry a leash with them while in areas designated as off-leash zones, explained Park Ranger Jeremy Nguyen. There is also a requirement for dogs to be leashed when using the paved trail on the north side of the creek and while in Rooks Park.
“The only difference the temporary rule imposes is that leashes will have to be attached to the dog’s collar and held onto by the dog-walker when using the gravel side of the creek,” he said. “I believe that we can work together with our dog-walking visitors to keep the levee trail open for everyone while the goats are on Corps property.”
This work is necessary to allow U.S. Army Corps of Engineers staff to safely inspect portions of the levee later this year during periods of flood risk. A contract for the vegetation removal was awarded to Northwest Goat Grazers, of Lostine, Oregon. The contract performance is valued at approximately $10,000. Goat grazing is an effective way to control vegetation without using herbicides or burning. Grazing also lessens future maintenance by reducing seed production.
The metal division works foot bridge near the Mill Creek Office will be open for use during this time. As in past years, in-water recreational activities in the Mill Creek channel along the vegetation removal zone will also be temporarily suspended during this time, because the working dogs may perceive visitors or their pets as a threat to the herd. Visitors and their dogs can play in the water downstream of the metal division works foot bridge or at Bennington Lake.
Visitors should not attempt to approach the goats or working dogs -- young goats will be present and the ewes are pretty protective. The public is advised to keep their distance and let them do their job of eating the weeds and brambles off of the levee.
For more information about this project or for general information about Mill Creek Dam and Bennington Lake, call the Mill Creek Office at 527-7160 or visit their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/millcreekdam