- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 28, 2014

WALLA WALLA, Wash. (AP) - Two herds of goats will be put to work this week to eat weeds and other vegetation growing downstream from the Mill Creek diversion dam near Walla Walla.

The Army Corps of Engineers said the first herd of about 200 goats will arrive on Thursday to work the south side of the Mill Creek channel.

A second herd of about 450 goats will arrive Saturday to eat vegetation on the north side of the creek.

The goats were hired under a $6,000 contract awarded to Lazy H Livestock of Grangeville, Idaho.

Goats were first tried out for the work last year as a way to control vegetation without using herbicides or burning.

The entire job will take two to three weeks to complete, the corps said.

Vegetation must be cleared to allow Corps of Engineers staff to safely inspect levees later this year during periods of flood risk.

“We’re really excited about having the goats back to do this work again,” said Mill Creek Park Ranger Chris Alford.

The livestock company uses electric fencing, shepherds and trained dogs to keep the goats corralled while they work.

Recreational activities will be suspended in the areas where goats are working because the dogs may perceive people as a threat to the herd, the corps said.

“Visitors should not attempt to approach the goats or working dogs,” Alford said. “Young goats will be present and the mamas are pretty protective. So are the working dogs.”

Last year, a herd of about 70 goats was first used by Mill Creek staff to control vegetation along a small section of the south levee. The goats’ effectiveness prompted staff to expand this year’s work area.