Douglas County Public Works has been recognized for its reduced use of salt on the county’s 550 miles of roadway it is responsible for.

The department was honored with the Environmental Leadership Award from the Freshwater Society in “recognition of exemplary work and innovation solutions to reduce impacts of winter maintenance on our freshwater.”

Douglas County Maintenance Superintendent Steve Johansen and his staff were commended for a job well done.

“We know residents are very concerned about the use of salt on our roads,” said Douglas County Public Works Director Dave Robley. “I’m proud of my staff for continuing to provide the safest winter driving possible, while also reducing salt.”

Johansen has been with the county for two years. Prior to his arrival, the county was using a drip system on the sander plates that helps keep the salt/sand mixture on the road.

Johansen had all the sanders calibrated and installed the latest sanding controllers and GPS in the new trucks. They have ground speed controllers installed to help keep the application rates efficient but not extreme.

To get to an even higher level of salt reduction, the county bought a brine making system and set up its water truck and water tank trailer with a brine application spray bar for anti-icing. Johansen also added brine application systems in three pickups for pre-treating in the outer parts of the county.

As with any new initiative, educating the operators is key to success, said Johansen. As a supervisor, Johansen made his expectation of reduced salt use clear. He found the operators were more than willing to join the effort, which is also a priority of county commissioners.

In 2019, staff used 30 percent less salt with few complaints from residents. The county does not have a bare pavement policy. Crews will clear most of the snow as quickly as they can, but motorists must adjust their driving based on conditions.