A herd of hungry goats are now munching the weeds away at Atascadero Lake. Their mission: Eat up all the overgrowth in 60 days.
The animals began grazing in the dry lake bed Wednesday as part of ongoing efforts by the city and the Atascadero Friends of the Lake group to fix up the North County attraction during the drought.
Removing the weeds from the lakebed now will help avoid the smell that has occurred in past years when rain water refilled the lake and submerged vegetation began to rot.
“It's thrilling that an imaginative, green and economical solution to the weed problem has been put together by the city, state and private agencies involved,” Friends of the Lake member Jon Trumbull said. “Glad to see that the lake should be ready for the hoped-for good rains this winter, without a huge excess of algae-promoting debris covering the bottom.”
The lake dried up in 2014, after the city had already battled odor problems from a massive fish die off and rotting algae caused by low oxygen levels as the water evaporated during hot weather. The little water that’s returned since then has also come and gone.
The city contracted with Central Coast Green Goats of Atascadero, owned by Annie Defeyter, to supply about 75 goats to remove the weeds. The goats are shepherded and protected day and night by a white Great Pyrenees herd-dog named Duke.
Duke and his goats will be contained by temporary fencing within a small section of the lake, starting at the deepest portion of the lakebed. Their fencing will move every three days or so as the goats clear each section of weeds before moving on to the next patch.
The goats will be moved from the lower levels of the lakebed to higher ground as they work so they aren’t in danger if it rains before their job is finished, according to the city.
The weed removal is yet another step in a long process to fix up the lake while it’s been dry, including dredging the lake to make it deeper and cleaner by removing sediment and muck, as well as repairing a 60-year-old water supply pipeline from Atascadero Creek.
The Friends group, meanwhile, has been working to organize lake perimeter clean-up days, create an informational kiosk and drill a supplemental well water source for the lake, among other programs.