Living in the Northeast we depend on clear roads during winter to maintain our way of life. Organizations, agencies and municipalities throughout upstate NY and VT understand that there is an impact to the environment from road salt application practices. We must find the balance that protects the environment and still allows for safe roads.
Road salt (sodium chloride) was first utilized within the U.S. on roads in NH in 1938. By 1941 a total of 5,000 tons of salt were applied to highways nationwide. Today, between 10-20 million tons of salt are applied annually. This increase in road salt application is having a negative impact on our waterways, soils, cars, and infrastructure. Lake Champlain alone has seen a 30% increase within the past 10 years in chloride levels and many bodies of water within the Adirondack Park have levels high enough to impact native aquatic organisms including fish populations. » Continue Reading.
The election last night in Lake George was a referendum on protecting the lake and the lake won. Last night, the team that was swept into office in 2011 on a platform of real change in town government built around protection of Lake George was handily re-elected.
Dennis Dickinson won as Supervisor and Marisa Muratori and Dan Hurley won for the Town Board. Dickinson and Muratori narrowly lost the Republican primary in September, but were elected on the Reform Party line. This is the second time that Muratori has been elected on a third party line. Hurley was elected as a Democrat. » Continue Reading.
All of a sudden, sap season is here and winter’s on its way out. Chances are though, a few more snow or ice squalls are still to come. The next time you find yourself driving behind a big plow truck, take a look at what’s coming out of the spreader. What is used makes a difference for wildlife, especially as the snow melts. » Continue Reading.
Standing next to a small, unnamed stream near where it empties into Mountain Pond on a cool September day, scientist Dan Kelting reads a sensor he just dipped in the water to measure electrical conductivity, which is used to gauge road-salt concentrations.
Pure water is a poor conductor of electricity, but road salt, or sodium chloride, increases conductivity. Based on the conductivity reading (285 microsiemens per centimeter), Kelting calculates that the water contains 80 milligrams of chloride per liter. This means the stream contains roughly 160 times more chloride than a similar size stream a few miles away.
Why the difference? The stream near Mountain Pond, north of Paul Smith’s College, is downstream from Route 30, a state highway that is heavily salted in the winter. The other stream, which Kelting refers to as Smitty Brook, runs through the Forest Preserve and is upstream of roads. » Continue Reading.
A conference at Paul Smith’s College this week led to the formation of a working group that will look at alternatives to applying road-salt on local roads.
The all-volunteer group, which is still being finalized, will study the costs of alternative de-icers and their impact on roads, bridges, and water quality. It will also examine roads in the Adirondacks to see where sunlight could be used to assist with snow and ice removal. It will identify funding sources for further studies of groundwater contamination, salt toxicity, public education, and training of state and municipal employees.
The group is expected to include members of local and state highway departments, environmental groups, local elected officials, and scientists. » Continue Reading.
Salt contamination of our streams, watersheds and aquifers from aggressive use of salt in winter road maintenance has become a major threat to the ecology of the Adirondacks, local advocates warn.
Finding ways to minimize or avoid that threat while keeping roads safe is the goal of the third annual Adirondack Winter Road Maintenance Conference, which will explore alternatives to current road salting and clearing policies at Paul Smith’s College on September 16, from 9 am to 4:30 pm.» Continue Reading.
Each year the Northern New York region gets a half-dozen or more freezing rain events, and every few years we might see an actual ice storm (technically at least 0.25 inches ice accumulation). But the storm that froze the North Country in up to two inches of glaze between December 21 and 23, 2013, was exceptional.
It didn’t have quite the punch of “The Great Ice Storm of 1998” in which freezing rain tumbled for 80 solid hours, but in some locations damage was extensive.
Ice storms happen when a warm, moisture-laden front slides up and over a cold air mass, and then lets loose the water works. Cumulus clouds billow up (occasionally spawning winter lightning), and when cloud air temperature is between 25 and 30F, the resulting subcooled rain freezes to cold surfaces. Warmer than 30, it rains; colder than 25, it sleets. If the warm front is slow-moving—or worse yet, stalls—the ice really builds up. » Continue Reading.
The recent round of snow, ice and rain has provided a good opportunity to see the winter performance of the porous pavement used at the newly reconstructed Beach Road, on Lake George. In the last few days we’ve seen lots of black ice and freezing rain, but the porous pavement has been clear.
This road project is one of the biggest experiments in the northeast in stormwater management, but many also believed it will provide better winter driving conditions too. » Continue Reading.
Over the next several weeks, the buds on hardwood trees and shrubs will open and the forests will again be cloaked in green, providing our many herbivores with a welcome change in their diet. While many plant eaters are able to subsist on woody buds and cellulose laden layers of inner bark throughout winter, leafy matter provides far greater levels of nourishment. The porcupine, a common denizen of the deep Northwood’s forest, is among our region’s first order consumers to ingest greens when they emerge in spring. In winter, the porcupine settles into a routine of eating only the bark and needles of a very few species of trees in the area around its den. The stomach and small intestine of this rodent contain strains of microorganisms that act on this ultra-high fiber material in order to derive the energy needed to remain alive in this climate. Yet the limited amount of nutrients, particularly nitrogen, in such plant tissues makes this type of food less than ideal for maintaining a healthy diet. Despite ingesting large volumes of woody matter each night in winter, the porcupine often loses weight continuously as this bleak season progresses. » Continue Reading.
What follows is a guest essay from Stacy McNulty Associate Director and Research Associate at SUNY ESF’s Adirondack Ecological Center in Newcomb. Following last week’s story on the destruction of wetlands by ATVs at the 2011 SNIRT rally, the Almanack asked Stacy to provide some background on vernal pools, small intermittent wetlands that are important sources of Adirondack biodiversity.
On a proverbially dark and stormy night in mid-April I climb the hill, flashlight sweeping the ground for obstacles. The first warm, spring rain has been falling and snow piles lie here and there. Faintly I hear a quacking sound up ahead, signaling my target – but what I seek is not a duck, but a frog. Scores of wood frogs swim and call from the pool, their eyes shining in the beam of my light. » Continue Reading.
Outside my house, and in the forest back beyond the land is carpeted with crystalline beauty, affording quietude, serenity, thermal shelter for critters, and some nice ski runs. Out on the county road, just two hours after the recent storm the pavement is bare – right on schedule with transportation departments’ standard for road maintenance and safety. To accomplish it, a corrosive pollutant will be laid down in quantity – 900,000 tons of road salt will be used across the state this winter according to the Department of Transportation (DOT) website. » Continue Reading.
AdkAction.org and the Adirondack Council will sponsor an inter-organizational meeting at Paul Smith’s College at 10 a.m. on May 17th to discuss ways to solve the growing problem of winter road salt damage in the Adirondack Park.
Two recent studies, Review of Effects and Costs of Road De-icing with Recommendations for Winter Road Management in the Adirondack Park [more], and Low Sodium Diet, Curbing New York’s Appetite for Damaging Road Salt [more], that were underwritten by the conference sponsors document the damage done by our current winter road maintenance procedures.
The latest study by the Adirondack Watershed Institute under sponsorship of AdkAction.org compares peer-reviewed literature from around the world and reports specific cost and damage assessments, along with recommended changes in practices that could dramatically reduce the environmental impact of winter road treatment without increasing costs or reducing safety. » Continue Reading.
The Adirondack Almanack is a public forum dedicated to promoting and discussing current events, history, arts, nature and outdoor recreation and other topics of interest to the Adirondacks and its communities
We publish commentary and opinion pieces from voluntary contributors, as well as news updates and event notices from area organizations. Contributors include veteran local writers, historians, naturalists, and outdoor enthusiasts from around the Adirondack region. The information, views and opinions expressed by these various authors are not necessarily those of the Adirondack Almanack or its publisher, the Adirondack Explorer.
General inquiries about the Adirondack Almanack should be directed to editor Melissa Hart.
To advertise on the Adirondack Almanack, or to receive information on rates and design, please click here.
Recent Almanack Comments