Salt supply seems stable, melting away winter worry

While states and municipalities in the Midwest and Northeast dig deep to pay higher prices to replenish stockpiles of salt to keep roads and highways safe this winter, Grand Valley governments appear to be on solid ground — for the most part.

Local and state road maintenance crews say they paid about the same amount for their current supply of salt as they did for previous supplies and have enough to melt snow for at least the beginning of the season.

“As of right now, state-wise, things look good as far as our supply, and we don’t foresee a problem,” said Mindy Crane, spokeswoman for the Colorado Department of Transportation.

A hard winter elsewhere in the country last year depleted reserves that normally would have been available now, creating shortages that bumped up demand. The cost for road salt, subsequently, shot up to between $40 and $100 a ton, according to some national reports.

The Grand Valley got plenty of snow last winter, as well, but local governments’ budgets and supplies haven’t been hit as hard as other locations.

Mesa County and Grand Junction obtain salt from Redmond Minerals in Redmond, Utah.

Eric Bruton, supervisor of the Mesa County Road and Bridge Department, said the county has about 400 tons of salt in storage. Mixed with sand, it will create about 4,000 tons of ice-melting product. That’s more than the roughly 2,500 tons the county has used in years past but less than the 5,000 tons the county spread on local roads last year.

“I’m pretty comfortable with where we’re at,” he said of the county’s supply.

The county paid $32 a ton to pick up salt over the summer, a little less than the $34 a ton it paid last winter. Bruton said he suspects that price is lower than many other jurisdictions are paying because the county uses its own trucks to haul salt back to the valley, saving on delivery costs, while governments back east likely have the product shipped by rail.

“You know what speed the railroad goes at,” Bruton said.

The city, meanwhile, has about 100 tons of salt on hand. Solid Waste and Streets Manager Darren Starr said the city paid $33 a ton for salt in February and $37 a ton to have it trucked to Grand Junction.

Starr said the 100 tons, combined with magnesium chloride, should be enough to get crews through one large snowstorm or two mid-size storms. What would cause him concern is if two significant storms hit within a few days of each other, leaving the city scrambling to come up with enough salt to handle the second storm.

In that instance, he said he believes the city could find a trucker looking for work in the slow economy who could pick up and deliver a load of salt.


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