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The average Minnesotan values having clean, healthy water resources. The same Minnesotans value safe driving conditions on roads and bridges. These two public goods are in direct conflict and create a serious dilemma for local government and businesses. Driving in difficult winter road conditions is a problem that directly impacts daily life for nearly all members of the public. It is immediately recognized and felt. Conversely, the problem of chloride pollution causing permanent damage to local waters is something that must be imagined and may not be felt until much later. Extreme public pressure is often brought to bear on local officials to address the immediate problem of icy roads, in spite of the long-term consequences of permanent damage to water resources that will have severe and wide impacts.

When confronted with this dilemma, most citizens will acknowledge this challenge needs to be resolved. However, the expectation is this is government’s problem to solve. This dynamic – the government must solve this problem, while the public simply observes – is at the root of this challenge. Changing this expectation is needed to change the over use of chloride to manage winter roads, parking lots, and sidewalks.

The question is how?

Traditional information and education campaigns are important tools in raising awareness about chloride impairments in lakes, rivers, and groundwater. However, if the goal is to create long-term, sustainable change in the practices surrounding the use of salt and other chloride products (e.g., sidewalk deicers, water softening agents) additional strategies will be needed. Research shows that education may be effective in altering some citizens’ behaviors for the short-term, but these changes are not likely to be widespread or sustained unless they are coupled with organizing strategies that provide supportive structures for citizen collaboration and public action (Dietz and Stern, 2002).

In order to ensure that a new mindset and social norm are achieved around winter road expectations and the use of chloride, a long-term approach to organizing stakeholders will be needed. Changing attitudes will require significant, long-term, and small-scale organizing of homeowners to work in partnership with WDs, WMOs, lake associations, and neighborhood organizations. These community-based organizations are best poised to deliver outreach and programs.

Outreach and education programs remove the barrier of lack of information and encourage people to make changes in their day-to-day practices. However, research has found that there are often other barriers that keep people from changing their existing practices. One effective strategy for overcoming these barriers is to couple information with relationship-building and collaboration support systems in small-scale settings. Community associations, civic groups, and lake associations that already organize neighbors around the issue of water quality can expand their learning and strategies to include addressing chloride pollution. The trusting relationships that develop in these contexts and citizens openness to learn and act, increases the possibility they will consider new information and assistance

Trusted local leaders delivering information will likely have greater impact than blanket media campaigns, fact sheets, or other educational materials. This approach can be especially effective when coupled with an effort to develop a sense of citizenship and common good while addressing water quality as part of an overall outreach and organizing strategy. Inspiring citizenship and caring for the common good and community, is showing promise in sparking interest in participation.

Development and implementation of public education and involvement is critical and necessary to the success of chloride management in the TCMA. Based on feedback from stakeholders, a multi-agency approach to public education and involvement is needed to reach a large and diverse group of salt applicators with a range of motivations related to salt application. Public education and involvement can be accomplished through multiple venues such as mainstream news media, social media, permanent and variable message signs, elementary and high school education, and other resources aimed at reaching the general public. The MPCA road salt and water quality website maintains a list of available educational resources. Educational resources for educators and citizens are also available in Appendix D.

Changes in personal practices and attitudes can be the most challenging and time consuming and require short- and long-term strategies. Current winter driving expectations is a result of decades of increasing road salt use and improvements to the level of service. The improved level of service has allowed the traveling public to drive faster with greater confidence during snow and ice events. A long-term strategy is needed to reverse this expectation. Education of young drivers could be an important starting point in changing driver behaviors to expect a lower level of service during snow and ice events.

As part of the TCMA Chloride Project, an education committee was created to identify the principal audiences for winter maintenance education and discuss potential opportunities and strategies to increase awareness about salt use and associated water quality issues. The EOC included state and local education specialists from the MPCA, counties, the UMN, The Freshwater Society, WDs, WMOs, conservation districts, and MnDOT which met four times over the duration of the TCMA Chloride Project.

The following is a summary of recommendations provided by the EOC and other stakeholders. These recommendations should be considered by professionals in relevant organizations and roles. In addition to the great information and recommendations gathered from local education specialists, there is a need for government and citizens to collaborate to make effective policy choices for reducing salt use.

Strategies for education and outreach

  • Share winter maintenance success stories that reflect people who have made positive and measurable changes. Create a recognition award program to acknowledge organizations that have made efforts to improve winter maintenance practices.
  • Share Smart Salting training for Small Sites, and Improved Winter Maintenance: Good Choices for Clean Water videos.
  • Provide information on hiring certified winter maintenance contractors to condominium associations, townhouse developments, etc. The Nine Mile Creek Watershed District created Hiring a Snow Removal Service brochure.
  • Develop seasonal salt messages for radio public service announcements.
  • Create targeted messaging such as information wheels or videos for gas stations, home improvement stores, hardware stores, and other stores that sell deicers; create winter maintenance tips for products, like shovels.
  • Create a system for the public to report excessive salt use. The system could be used to notify users of excessive use reports.
  • Incorporate education on chloride into pre-existing community events (e.g., National Night Out) as much as possible, rather than expecting the public to attend a separate event about road salt.

Winter maintenance training

  • Provide Smart Salting training for school maintenance and grounds directors. The Nine Mile Creek Watershed District developed Winter Maintenance on School Grounds Workshop to train building and grounds directors on proper winter maintenance techniques for entrances, sidewalks, and parking lots.
  • Provide training for private applicators and offer it at events such as the Northern Green Expo.
  • Develop and implement a train-the-trainer and/or mentorship program. Provide opportunities for winter maintenance professionals to share changed practices and lessons learned at expos, trainings, etc.
  • Create and implement a program similar to the Canadian program “Smart about Salt”. A similar program would allow schools, apartment complexes, condominiums, government, commercial properties, etc. to become certified. Benefits are cited as quality for insurance premium discounts and stormwater credits offered to certified sites within certain municipalities.

Strategies for Recruiting for Training

  • Include a letter or a link to a short online video with the training brochure explaining the importance of the training and include a list of example BMPs.
  • Prioritize recruiting individuals who perform winter maintenance activities on large parking lots, such as malls, hospitals, universities, etc. that drain to waterbodies.
  • Promote trainings at events such as the Northern Green Expo, and at non-environmental events to target different audiences. Adjust emphasis and message (e.g., cost savings, habitat, etc.) depending on event and audience.
  • Recruit individuals who have received funding for past projects (e.g., rain gardens) and/or individuals that have applied for permits for construction activities.

Legislative strategies

  • Create an ordinance for the city’s legislative and administrative code that addresses certification of winter maintenance applicators, similar to the Lawn Fertilizer and Pesticide Application code.
  • Introduce legislation that provides protection for slip and fall lawsuits for private applicators that are certified through the Smart Salting training program.
  • Require all commercial applicators to receive the MPCA’s Smart Salting training. Provide training remotely through webinars for applicators outside the TCMA.
  • Apply a salt tax to annual vehicle registrations that could be used to implement salt reduction strategies.

Demonstration projects

Demonstration projects can be used to test the organizing approaches for building partnerships between citizens and government or property owners to work together to solve the challenge of chloride use and water resource impairments. The demonstrations will likely be most successful where community capacity around environmental issues exists. Local leaders should be supported to experiment with building partnerships across sectors to co-develop strategies for chloride reductions by municipalities, businesses, and households. The demonstrations can employ pre- and post-evaluation to determine whether the approach achieves meaningful outcomes over time. The outcomes will determine whether the efforts should expand past the pilot stage. If defined outcomes are significant, the plan should be developed to scale to metro-wide and beyond application.

This page was last edited on 18 May 2018, at 19:12.

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