Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

Local News

February 8, 2014

Down but not out

Local highway and public works departments running low on salt

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — Winter has certainly taken a toll, with subzero temperatures and roughly 90 inches of snow falling on the Buffalo-Niagara Falls region so far this season, according to the National Weather Service.

Local highway and public works departments have had to pay attention to things such as overtime costs and equipment upkeep. And they’ve also had to keep a close eye on their rock salt, used for de-icing the wintery roads.

Municipalities in eastern Niagara County are reporting they’re low on salt, but none are dangerously close to running out. Since it is February, there’s hope that with a little help from Mother Nature, local road crews have enough salt to make it to spring.

”We’re low, but not out,” said David J. Miller, Lockport town highway superintendent. “We’ve got enough to keep going.”

The problem is that North American Rock Salt, the Kansas City-based salt provider for municipalities throughout the state, is behind on orders. North American services cities, towns and villages in the northeast, including New York state and the New England region. 

Demand is high across the nation for salt, but the weather hasn’t made it any easier. The frigid temperatures and snow have made transportation and delivery difficult.

North American had at least two ships stuck in Cleveland when Lake Erie froze early this winter. North American has two salt mines in Ontario, not far from Detroit, as well as a stockpiling dock in Buffalo.

The Buffalo pile ran out. And the ships could only make it as far as the city of Port Colborne in southern Ontario. So, trucks have to pick up salt in Port Colborne and head east over the border to Buffalo.

That’s Buffalo, which has seen over 90 inches of snow, many closed roads and more than a few traffic advisories this winter.

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