Lake George has been a leader in road salt reduction and now some of those lessons will be coming north.
Wilmington Supervisor Roy Holzer, who attended the sixth annual Lake George road salt reduction summit last week, said his town has applied for a grant that would pay for cameras on the Whiteface Highway, a steep climb out of the hamlet to elevations where it can snow before it does down below. But not always. With cameras, plow drivers can open an app and assess conditions before driving up and salting a road that may not need it. Salt pollution has been recognized as a threat both to the environment and public health.
Essex County Department of Public Works Director Jim Dugan said some methods used further south, such as brining the highway, aren’t as effective in the mountains where it’s colder. But that doesn’t mean local governments are powerless.
Dugan said the county, with a $750,000 state grant and a $250,000 match, is building a shed to keep its stores of sand under roof. Before it’s stockpiled, salt has to be mixed into the sand to keep it from freezing into unspreadable chunks. Dougan said the shelter will keep the sand dry, and greatly reduce the ratio of salt to sand.
Dugan said he would also like to be allowed to cut trees in the highway right of way to let in the ice-melting sun, but even though environmentalists agree this is an important strategy, in the Forest Preserve that’s not allowed.
Holzer follows the late Wilmington Supervisor Randy Preston, for which road salt reduction law is named.
“I certainly feel an obligation to carry through with his mission, and I feel like Wilmington is leading change in the North Country,” Holzer said. Smart salt law can strike a balance between safety and the environment, while saving taxpayer money by reducing the need to purchase salt, he said.
NYS Assemblyman Billy Jones speaks Dec. 4, 2020, at a commemoration of the signing of the Randy Preston Road Salt Reduction Act. More than 10 months later, the task force created by the bill is still without members. Mike Lynch photo
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