An Expensive Winter

How bad has the winter of 2013-14 been?

Highway Commissioner John Kolodziej told the Door County Highway Committee at its regular monthly meeting on Feb. 10 that $376,015 had been expended in January alone to deal with snow and ice on roadways. Other than been being a huge amount of money, that figure might not mean much until you consider that $123,985 was spent in Jan. 2013, $160,961 in Jan. 2012 and $158,903 in January 2011.

“It’s a very, very, very expensive winter,” Kolodziej said, explaining that winter hit hard in November and hasn’t let up since.

He said the county Highway Dept. started out the season with 5,000 tons of salt at $55 a ton – or $275,000 worth of salt – and are now down to about 1,900 tons, which he hopes holds out for the remainder of the winter, especially since, he added, “You can’t get any more salt anywhere.”

Even when there wasn’t fresh snowfall to deal with, Kolodziej said crews had to deal with drifting on the roads during windy days, a problem that was exacerbated by the early winter, which prevented county crews from getting up all the snow fences.

Mention of snow fences led to discussion of living snow fences, an idea that has worked in Iowa and that was first attempted in Wisconsin in a Wisconsin Department of Transportation effort in 2011. The agency’s idea was to pay producers to leave between eight and 16 outside rows of corn unharvested as a substitute for the highway crew-erected snow fences. The state is looking to pay farmers 50 cents per bushel above the price they would be paid at harvest to leave the rows of corn standing.

The Highway Committee seemed to like the idea of corn row snow fences and suggested everyone keep an eye out for likely farmers who could be approached about the concept.