On Friday, November 1, 2019 Assemblymen Billy Jones and Dan Stec and State Senator Betty Little visited Saranac Lake to introduce the “Randy Preston Road Salt Reduction Act” which they have jointly sponsored in the State legislature. This newly proposed legislation will address the issue of road salt contamination across the Adirondack Park. This bill was named after the late Randy Preston, a leader in road salt reduction efforts and close partner of AdkAction, co-chairing the Adirondack Road Salt Working Group for 4 years.
AdkAction wholeheartedly supports this legislation which works directly toward its goal of reducing road salt pollution to achieve the much-needed improvements to the health of lakes, streams and private wells, as well as reduce harm to its citizens and damage to vehicles and infrastructure. Our Road Salt Project was one of the first projects initiated by AdkAction nine years ago to address the unmet concerns related to the excessive use of road salt in the Park.
At the press conference, Assemblyman Jones stated that the road salt issue crosses party lines and that a major component of the legislation addresses the need for clean drinking water and concerns related to salt contamination of water supplies. All three politicians stressed the importance of New York State recognizing the seriousness of these issues and implementing the broad strategies presented in the legislation. Assemblyman Stec highlighted the need to have local highway departments involved in this issue in order to make real change. He commented that more and more local municipalities are changing their methods of maintaining the roads and many are willing to learn. There was also discussion about how important it is to change the mindset of the public through outreach and education to get individuals to understand that they may need to modify driving habits to plan more time, drive more slowly and stay safe in areas where the salt application may be modified.
A significant factor influencing these goals is the effort of the Adirondack Road Salt Working Group, administered by AdkAction, with partners including Paul Smiths College Adirondack Watershed Institute, the Town of Wilmington, The FUND for Lake George, Lake George Waterkeeper, and the AuSable River Association.
Complementing these activities, AdkAction is continuing its effort to encourage all communities in the Adirondacks to sign its Pledge to Reduce Road Salt Memorandum of Understanding which identifies issues associated with road salt applications, as well as steps that may be taken to help reduce related impacts. Currently, 26 Adirondack towns and villages have signed this Pledge, and are working toward a proactive approach to reducing their road salt usage while maintaining safe driving conditions through the use of best practices.
The “Randy Preston Road Salt Reduction Act” will establish the Adirondack road salt reduction task force, and result in the development of a pilot plan and a test program.
The road salt reduction task force will consist of fifteen members who will have expertise in the science of road salt contamination and the best practices of road management. It is charged with assessing the current Department of Transportation (DOT) policies and practices and establishing levels of service for state roadway management in winter weather for the Adirondack Park. This detailed assessment shall be based on the best available science concerning road salt contamination and the nature, scope, and magnitude of associated impacts to our surface and ground waters, public and private lands and property, and infrastructure. The task force will be required to submit a report of these findings by September 1, 2021.
The bill also requires the formulation of a multi-year Adirondack Park road salt reduction pilot plan, with the test program implemented through the partnership of the DOT and the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). The projected study will be conducted between October 15 and June 30 for the years of 2021 through 2024, to test the best management practices, updated levels of service, and overall road salt reduction targets. This pilot program will take place on all state-owned roadways within the boundary of the Adirondack Park. During the pilot program, DOT and DEC will be testing a variety of application techniques and road management strategies, and employ third party organizations to monitor water quality along state roadways.
Following the completion of the pilot plan test program, the DOT and DEC shall submit a summary report to the Adirondack road salt reduction task force by August 30, 2024, identifying the effectiveness of such strategies to reduce the broad impacts of road salt on water quality and meet the standards of winter road maintenance.
Executive Director of AdkAction, Brittany Christenson has noted that, “AdkAction has been promoting a Park-wide pilot strategy for the past 4 years, and, as a member of the NYS Strategic Road Salt Working Group, is working to address the negative consequences of the overuse of road salt. The organization is encouraged by the comprehensive legislation developed through the strong leadership of Assemblymen Billy Jones and Dan Stek and Senator Betty Little on this critical issue that has already significantly harmed our clean drinking water and valuable lakes and rivers. Long-term, the information gained through the implementation of this legislation focused on the Adirondack Park will have benefits throughout the state. It is time for New York State to take profound action on this important issue and protect Adirondack waters and its people.”