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Originally published Sunday, September 14, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Oregon will make compost of roadkill

A new roadkill compost center near Heppner will ensure that many deer, cattle and other animals killed along Eastern Oregon highways won't simply decompose in a ditch.

HEPPNER, Ore. — Roadkill: It isn't just for dinner anymore.

A new roadkill compost center near Heppner will ensure that many deer, cattle and other animals killed along Eastern Oregon highways won't simply decompose in a ditch.

Instead, they will become productive compost.

The Morrow County Planning Commission has approved a permit for a roadkill composting facility.

Officials say roadside carcasses are becoming a larger problem as Oregon's population grows, and that roadkill attracts scavengers such as coyotes, which bother farmers and boost the likelihood of more roadkill.

Tom Strandberg, the regional spokesman for Oregon Department of Transportation, said the facility would resemble one in Washington near Goldendale, Klickitat County. Across the country, officials are re-examining the way they dispose of roadkill, he said.

Local roadkill would be taken to one of four bins surrounded by a concrete berm to keep scavengers out. A layer of soil and wood chips would cover the bottom of the bins. The carcasses would be deposited and covered with finished compost and more bulk vegetable matter.

The whole process should take about three months.

Washington plans to use its compost as roadside ground cover where native vegetation is being planted. But hundreds of cubic yards of material placed into the Goldendale bins last year created only 50 cubic yards of compost.

Morrow County officials are looking into the best use for their own product.

Similarly small output led West Virginia to limit its roadkill composting. That state spent $2.6 million since 2005 to produce a few truckloads of compost. Instead, West Virginia now lets nature take its course at more rural sites.

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