WALLA WALLA, Wash. – A herd of goats arrives today, Friday, May 6, 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.
The first phase of grazing (about 400 goats) is planned for the south side of the Mill Creek channel near the diversion dam, across the creek from Rooks Park. The goats will be contained within electric fencing while working in the vegetation-maintenance zone, accompanied by professional herding dogs and shepherds.
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 have posted signs and will conduct extra patrols to ensure visitors have their dogs leashed and under physical control while the goats are working on the Corps levees.
“Last year, a shepherd reported that a baby goat was killed and dragged into the creek,” said Park Ranger Jeremy Nguyen, “Following the temporary leash rules will help us avoid other similar incidents that might endanger the goats and require us to close-off the south levee.”
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 Nguyen. There is already 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.”
Once areas downstream of the diversion dam are cleared of vegetation, the herd will be relocated upstream of the dam to tackle vegetation on the forebay levee. The forebay levee will be closed to public access while the goats are grazing there, although the paved trail along the toe (bottom) of the levee will remain open. In addition to the areas covered in past contracts 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 also be closed while the goats are there.
This project 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, for one base year plus four option years, with work starting in May 2016. The first year of contract performance is valued at $9,890. 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.
U.S. ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS – WALLA WALLA DISTRICT
509-527-7020 firstname.lastname@example.org www.nww.usace.army.mil