Weed war weapon?

Pygmy goats are here to help

COEUR d'ALENE - Dion Holton, utility supervisor for the city of Coeur d'Alene Water Department, had been working for nearly two years for the piece of paper he held in his hand.

The official title: "Engineering Waiver for Livestock Setback to Public Drinking Water Well."

Translation?

DEQ has approved a waiver to allow the use of goats at city well sites for weed control on a limited basis.

Although goats have been allowed at the city's water reservoirs, DEQ rules prohibit the keeping of "livestock" at wells. The intent of the rule is to prevent keeping cows and other large animals near drinking water supplies.

Pygmy goats are legally defined as livestock although pretty much everyone agrees that they would have no measurable impact on water quality.

"As far as I know, no other water utility in the country is using pygmy goats for weed abatement," said Water Superintendent Jim Markley.

Two years ago, the city contracted with a local owner of a herd of pygmy goats to have the goats eat the weeds at city reservoirs, where no waiver was needed.

The herd owner was responsible to augment fencing to keep the goats penned and to ensure that the goats had adequate water. The owner periodically visited the sites to make sure the goats were OK.

The goats were placed inside the fenced area of one of the reservoirs and within a few days the weeds had been eaten down to the ground. It is believed that eventually the goats will be able to completely kill the weeds.

"Not only are goats environmentally friendly, they are customer friendly as well," a press release said. "The passersby are amused by the highly curious and friendly goats and many journey out of their way just to observe the busy, four-legged workers."

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