There’s a LOT of snow up on the passes this week. And what that also means, though, is that there’s a lot of salt being put on the roads on the passes. In a unique study, Idaho DEQ has taken a careful look at what happens to the road salt in the watersheds around 4th of July pass. And that’s the subject of yet another fascinating “lunch and learn” noon meeting at the Iron Horse this Thursday.

DEQ scientist Tyson Clyne will talk about some of the data collected, and what it might mean for aquatic life in the streams along the interstate. According to a preview presentation given to the Coeur d’Alene Watershed Advisory Group last month, Clyne says that the Idaho Department of Transportation puts down some 150-300 pounds of salt, per lane, per mile, per snowstorm event. On average, in our region, there are 30 such events each year.

Clyne’s study shows fairly significant loadings of salt into the local streams, but Idaho does not have numeric water quality standards governing the amount of salt allowed in a stream. The primary impact will be to fish spawning, but other impacts may also be felt to groundwater, soils, and nearby vegetation.

Despite alternatives like magnesium chloride, beet juice, and sand, it turns out that regular everyday salt might actually be the best choice for keeping roads passable. But the choice is not without impact. Join us to learn more.