As East Coast snow banks grow higher, salt stockpiles dwindle

Forty thousand tons of salt, slated for New Jersey, are stuck on a barge in Maine thanks to a not-often-discussed rule in the 1920 Maritime Act.

By Brooks Hays
People walk by workers who shovel and lay salt on the sidewalks in New York City on January 3, 2014. (File/UPI/John Angelillo)
People walk by workers who shovel and lay salt on the sidewalks in New York City on January 3, 2014. (File/UPI/John Angelillo) | License Photo

NEW YORK, Feb. 19 (UPI) -- Across the Northeast, city and state transportation officials say they're running out of deicing salt, their stockpiles depleted by the recent barrage of winter storms.

With road crews in Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and elsewhere having to prepare for storm after storm, commercial salt producers and shippers simply haven't been able to keep up.


"A lot of the counties and municipalities are out of salt," Jim Simpson, commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Transportation, told reporters Monday. "If we have one more storm, New Jersey is going to have to close its interstates."

Simpson says the state is waiting on a 40,000-ton shipment of rock salt. The ship it's sitting on is stalled in Searsport, Maine, unable to make the trek south to Port Newark because the 1920 Maritime Act forbids non-American ships from carrying a load from one domestic port to another -- a remnant of early 20th century protectionism. Simpson's department has been unsuccessful in lobbying federal officials for a waiver to allow the ship to move southward.

The salt shortage and mounting snow accumulations have moved Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to declare states of emergency in recent weeks. In Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh officials say new salt shipments have begun to trickle in, but that they're still well short.


"Typically, in a storm like this, we like to have 3,000 tons. We’re working with one-third of what we’d like to have, but we’re going to have to make it work,” Pittsburgh’s Chief Operations Officer Guy Costa told CBS after 1,000 tons of salt arrived Monday.

American Rock Salt, a chief supplier of deicing salt, said in a statement that it's working around the clock to solve the salt crisis -- and is currently unable to respond to media inquiries. "We have been coordinating efforts with local and state governmental officials and agencies throughout this winter's storm activities to maintain public safety to the extent feasible,” the company said.

[] [Pittsburgh CBS] [The Christian Science Monitor]

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