The Bradford County Conservation District administers a number of programs that benefit the residents and communities within Bradford County. One such program is the Dirt, Gravel, and Low Volume Roads Program, which brings nearly $1.5 million to Bradford County on an annual basis. Enacted into law as section 9106 of the PA Vehicle Code in April of 1997, the program strives to balance environmental and economic sustainability of Pennsylvania’s low volume (less than 500 vehicles per day) road network. Program goals are achieved through education, outreach, and providing project funding. Statewide, $28 million is allocated to 65 Pennsylvania counties each year.
Although currently a multi-million-dollar program, it began from humble roots. We’ve all heard the saying ‘one person can make a difference’, and this is a great example of that. One day as a fisherman waited out a passing thunderstorm, he noticed his favorite trout stream turn from clear to brown in a matter of moments. Exploring further, he determined that this color change was due to sediment washing into the stream from an adjacent dirt road. As the rain pounded the road surface, dirt was washed into the road ditch, which was also washing out, and drained directly into the stream. He felt something should be done and wondered what the larger impact was if such a problem was being created by just one road.
From that day, a grassroots effort began with a handful of individuals, largely supported by Trout Unlimited. The following few years were spent collecting data, hosting numerous meetings to gain legislative support, and providing testimony at environmental hearings. Finally, in 1997, the Dirt and Gravel Road Program was created and has provided dedicated funding throughout the state for over two decades. Today, paved low-volume roads are included and are eligible for funding as well.
So, what does it mean that these roads are eligible for funding and how does this $1.5 million benefit Bradford County? First and foremost, this is an environmental program, so if a dirt road or a paved low volume road is contributing sediment or nutrients to a water body (stream, lake, wetland, etc.), then it would be eligible for funding. If the road runoff does not directly affect a water body, then it would not be eligible. Here in Bradford County, we have thousands of miles of streams and roads, therefore the interaction is often, and the number of eligible sites is high. This leads to Bradford County hosting the largest DGLVR program in the state. Funding generated from the program can be used to construct a number of best management practices (BMPs) including: stabilization of the road base and road surface, stabilization of eroding ditches, installation of underdrain, installation of new cross-pipes, and even installation of water retention features off the road right-of-way. All the practices installed are meant to reduce both environmental impacts and frequent maintenance and save money for road managers and residents.
As previously stated, education is another component of the program. Although a site may be eligible for funding, a mandatory 2-day Environmentally Sensitive Maintenance training must be attended by any road owning entity (typically a municipality) to apply for funding. This training describes techniques that reduce road impacts to water quality and provides road managers the skills to stabilize roadways with reduced long-term maintenance. A reduction in regular maintenance saves municipalities money and a better road saves wear and tear on residents’ vehicles. The program also provides opportunity for a positive interaction between road managers and landowners who often work cooperatively to come up with the best solution to address stormwater on local roads.
Through 2018, 138 projects (nearly 60 miles) have been completed in Bradford County and another 15-20 projects are scheduled for this year. There are currently 34 municipalities eligible to participate in the program and BCCD will be accepting new applications for project funding in April. If you are interested in hearing more about the program, seeing some completed projects in your municipality, or if you would like to know if your municipality participates in the program, please contact the conservation district.
The Bradford County Conservation District is committed to helping people manage resources wisely. You can visit the Bradford County Conservation District at 200 Lake Rd in Wysox across from the Wysox Fire Hall. Contact us at (570) 485-3144 or visit our web page at www.bccdpa.com.