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Snow Cleanup Continues

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By: Rick Haffey via Nevada County Friday Memo

December 13, 2013 - The first major storm of the year hit western Nevada County this past weekend and the County's Department of Public Works personnel work to maintain safety on public roadways.

During the winter months, the County is responsible for snow removal along eleven designated snow routes in the western part of the County. These routes are above 2,500-ft elevation and range from 6 to 30 road miles each, typically taking a full 12-hour shift to clear snow along each route. When snow storms hit, main arterial and collector roadways, primary emergency response routes, and school bus routes are prioritized and plowed first. When heavy snow storms require repeated work to clear snow or ice on priority roadways, smaller residential streets may not be cleared in this timeframe. To improve response times in these events, snow removal equipment is stored, full time, along higher elevation routes, including Washington Road, Scotts Flat, North Bloomfield, Columbia Hill (North San Juan), Cascade Shores, and Banner Quaker Hill. The remaining equipment is located at the County's Corporation Yard located on Loma Rica Drive.

The most recent snowstorms hit roads below 2,500 feet. The County deployed additional pick-up truck plows and personnel to plow these roadways. During these events, it is nearly impossible to keep up with snow removal demand as every available employee is tasked with snow removal. Combined with additional snowstorm related emergencies like road hazards, fallen trees, sand application on icy roads, traffic control, etc., it is impossible to remove snow from all western County roadways during these events in a timely manner.

To minimize the formation of ice during periods between storms, the County utilizes a liquid brine solution on many public roads. Historically, many road departments used rock salt to melt ice and snow on roads. Studies have shown that the use of salt or other de-icing agents reduces crashes by 85%. However, the negative environmental effects of the use of rock salt are well documented, including contamination of existing waterways and negative effects on roadside vegetation. Salt also quickly washes off the road in wet conditions, requiring frequent reapplications and further exacerbating environmental effects.

The liquid brine solution, essentially a 25% salt and water mix, gives the roads a wet appearance and leaves behind a white residue but significantly reduces icing on public roads by reducing the freezing point of water. This, in turn, reduces the amount of ice on applied roadways. This brine solution has been approved by Caltrans and is currently also used on the State highways. One application of the brine solution may last up anywhere from 7-10 days, which reduced the need to constantly apply salt or sand and reduces foreign material from washing into waterways. In addition, the brine solution contains only 25% salt, again reducing the amount of salt applied to roadways.

In California, Caltrans has led the use of brine for ice control, applying brine since the early 2000s in some of the most environmentally sensitive areas in the state, including the Lake Tahoe basin.

For additional questions or comments regarding snow removal and deicing operations, please contact the Department of Public Works at 265-1411. ​​


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