Tuesday, September 19, 2023

How much salt?

road salt truck

An interesting nugget gleaned from the state’s recently released Adirondack Road Salt Reduction Task Force report is the role that rock salt plays in the state economy.

“New York State ranks third in rock salt production, providing approximately 16% (~7.7 million tons) of the total national output,” the report states. “Today, rock salt is New York State’s third leading valued mineral product, behind crushed stone and cement respectively, contributing approximately $560 million to the state’s economy annually.”

Which is to say that for every green lobbyist in Albany on the salt issue, there is likely to be someone on the other side of the ball.

High-tech salt solutions — most notably some impressive, whiz-bang snowplow equipment and road cams — have received lots of attention, but the report points to some low-tech solutions as well, such as identifying “cold spots” on highways and applying “vegetation management” to reduce the need for salt. Pruning trees can allow for more sunshine on these problem spots. And here’s another idea for winter driving: slow down. The report recommends seasonal speed warnings as a way of reducing the need for salt.

Salmon survey
Beginning this month, anglers on the Saranac and Boquet rivers will be asked to assist in monitoring efforts to re-establish the Lake Champlain salmon fishery.

According to the Department of Environmental Conservation, anglers will be asked to help with a creel survey to determine catch information along with the angler’s satisfaction with the fishery. Participating anglers are also encouraged to provide biological data from fish caught, including length, presence of fin clips, and number of sea lamprey wounds.

“Survey results will provide DEC fisheries biologists with a better understanding of angler use, catch, and harvest and angler expectations on major tributaries to Lake Champlain used by Atlantic salmon. Information gathered will be used to develop a bi-annual River Creel survey that will monitor the Atlantic salmon fishery and inform management actions on these rivers,” the DEC said in a press release.

The state and groups like Trout Unlimited have done good work revitalizing the long-moribund Atlantic salmon fishery. In the spring and fall these salmon can be caught at the mouths of Lake Champlain’s tributaries, either with flies or spin-casting gear.

Not bogged down

When you play word association with the Adirondacks, orchids aren’t the first thing that come to mind. But the park is indeed home to many varieties, from the ubiquitous Lady’s Slipper to the rare Hooker’s orchid that was discovered in Wilmington.

I’ve been working (working seems the wrong word) on a story about orchids scheduled to run next summer, and to help me understand a slice of orchid habitat, Adirondack naturalist Dan Spada was kind enough to give me a tour of some wonderfully soggy spots that orchids inhabit.

Classically these are known as bogs, but Dan prefers “peatlands” because it is more inclusive, covering multiple types of bogs and fens as well.

Peat — the accumulation of organic matter over the millenia — is the common denominator, and we are fortunate that in more industrial times it was not all dug up and sold in garden stores.

We walked out on a bog near Paul Smith’s, the sensation being similar to walking on a waterbed. Even with all the recent rain, Spada said these bogs never get flooded in the traditional sense; instead, the mat of sphagnum and other bog plants simply floats on a lens of water down below.

Bogs can be wide open plains, or small “kettles,” and all are fantastic, magical spots. Fall is a good time to visit, when the moss is scarlet and the tamaracks are canary yellow — once again, nature gets away with color schemes that would never fly on a fashion show runway.

Photo at top Almanack file photo. This first appeared in the Explorer’s weekly “Water Line” newsletter. Click here to sign up.

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Tim Rowland is a humor columnist for Herald-Mail Media in Hagerstown, Md., and a New York Times bestselling author. His books include High Peaks; A History of Hiking the Adirondacks from Noah to Neoprene and Strange and Unusual Stories of New York City. He has climbed the 46 high peaks, is an avid bicyclist, and trout tremble with fear when they see his approaching shadow. He and his wife Beth are residents of Jay, N.Y.

6 Responses

  1. Alan West says:

    New York needs to get serious about reducing and eliminating the use of road salt. The damage it is doing to the environment needs to be stopped.

    • Rob says:

      What is another alternative?? Use sand like a lot of towns in the north country? Great for the snowmobiles as it will leave salt on the road. But it just provides traction, no melting of snow or ice. So when snow gets packed down on roadways and then there is a warm up it turns to ice. Could be a couple inches of ice. That makes for serious safety concerns even if people slow down. No way the state is going to do away with salt on major roads unfortunately

  2. Paul says:

    This is a tough one. It’s not really analogous to something like phasing out one type of energy for another. Like Rob say, what is the alternative to switch to. Heated roads? Interestingly, Cargill (that owns the big salt mine in NYS) has tried to develop technology to replace salt. They were working on some kind of asphalt that absorbs solar heat better making the roadway melt faster. Probably won’t work top well in the Adirondacks! There are some natural anti-freeze type compounds produced by certain types of bacteria that might be the answer. They actually use one bacteria (inactivated of course) in additives for snow making that raises the freezing point so you can make better snow at higher temps.

  3. Joe Kozlina says:

    In most cases there is a healthy alternative to and unhealthy one. EX. Road Salt. Solution, beet juice. Maybe At least New York could use it for the Hudson Water Shed if no where else, if the powers to be are concerned about the fresh water supply of NY City. Or are the powers to be just interested in the almighty dollar and who will get it or not. Salt miners or farmers? You would think the people of NY would want their Adirondacks and Catskills and Finger Lakes to be clean and healthy. How about NY conducts a year or two trial ,in the Adirondacks, of using Beet Juice for a real study, instead of years of studying to see if salt is harmful. I don’t recall hearing this alternative mentioned in the road salt study. According to the beet juice article, it states that NY is using beet juice as of July of 2023. The article talks about the extra expense of using beet juice compared to salt. I think if you take in the cost and destruction to our fish/wildlife it would be negligible. On a seperate note I found this article of much importance….The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has issued a General Permit GP-0-21-002 (PDF) for use by electric and gas utility companies to manage vegetation by selective pruning, mowing, and cutting of vegetation and the application of registered pesticides in existing utility rights-of-way (ROW) located within state regulated freshwater wetlands, regulated wetland adjacent areas, and tidal wetlands, for the purposes of maintaining integrity of service, reliability and safety of electrical and natural gas systems….. Pesticides/Herbisides in our Water/Lakes\Streams? Are we even trying to help out our wildlife and planet or just blowing smoke?

  4. Todd Eastman says:

    Stop expecting to drive at or above the speed limit regardless of the weather…🙄

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