Augusta might soon be looking at a four-legged solution to maintaining the hundreds of retention ponds in Richmond County: goats.
At the Richmond County Board of Health meeting Tuesday night, environmental health county manager Randy Wishard said his service is looking to team up with city departments to try an unconventional approach to controlling some of the 875 retention ponds in Augusta. Many of them are overgrown and difficult to treat to keep mosquitoes from breeding there, he said.
“Retention ponds are a major problem,” Wishard said. “They’re bad.”
The idea would be to start a pilot program with two teams of perhaps three goats apiece, which would be placed inside a fenced and locked area, to see how quickly they could graze the pond back into shape, he said.
The program has the backing of Augusta Commission member Marion Williams, also a board of health member, who said it has worked in other areas, such as behind a mall in Atlanta.
“They’ll clear it off,” he said. “And they’ll keep it down. It will work in our city.”
The idea prompted immediate questions from other board members, some of them half-jokingly.
“Who’s going to protect the goats?” Board Chairman Elijah Lightfoot asked.
Or “Keep them from getting stolen?” Board member Jack Padgett inquired.
“Or eaten?” Lightfoot added.
There will be signs on the fences to let people know about the program and temporary shelters placed inside for the goats, Wishard said. It will probably take 60-90 days before the county can begin to get all of that put together, he said. And they still need to get the goats, Wishard said.
Goat costs were not discussed during the meeting, but Wishard said the cost of the program will be “minimal” compared to that of getting the ponds under control.
The goats will be closely monitored and it will take a while to see how long it takes them to clear an area and then be rotated, he said. The plan is not to put goats on every retention pond, but if a good percentage can be brought into compliance “it would definitely keep a lot of things down,” Wishard said.
The goats better be closely monitored or the program might work too well, Lightfoot said.
“Goats will clear off everything,” he said. “They’ll eat everything down to the dirt.”