DIXFIELD – Lack of salt – not money – has put a crimp in the Maine Department of Transportation’s road-clearing plans for this winter.

According to MDOT Regional Manager Norm Haggan in Dixfield, the department’s supplier, International Salt Co. of South Portland, ran out of salt last month and asked the state and municipalities that it services to ration the commodity.

That’s why MDOT has been getting 30-ton truckloads daily of salt from International’s stockpiles in Searsport, Haggan said Thursday.

“We can sympathize with them, because nobody can anticipate what we’ve had this December,” Haggan said.

His department uses 57 plow trucks to clear snow and ice over 1,350 lane miles from Jackman to Skowhegan, and west to Gilead and down to Paris.

“We’ve got enough salt to get by on. We always have enough to go out with and stay two storms ahead, but we’re down to 100 tons. The last couple of weeks, it’s been harder to get salt, because everybody needs it. It’s like trying to find turkeys on Thanksgiving,” he said.

In a normal winter, his department is allotted 19,800 tons of salt. Last winter, it used 16,000 tons. “This winter, we’ve used 9,964 tons already and it’s only been two weeks of winter,” Haggan said.

Rationing is expected to continue through Thursday, Jan. 10, when International’s next shipment of salt arrives on a barge from Chile.

Four years ago, MDOT began using more salt instead of sand and found the technique to be more effective at freeing roads from snow and ice. However, greater demand and higher trucking fuel costs have driven up the cost of salt annually. MDOT is paying International $52.39 per ton delivered now.

“We don’t use a whole lot of sand anymore unless conditions are right. We salt to prevent the snow from bonding, so, we’re getting bare pavement a lot sooner,” Haggan said.

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