Cumberland Times-News

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June 3, 2012

‘Better road, cleaner streams and less cost’

Instructors share techniques to reduce erosion, lessen sediment

FROSTBURG — Dirt and gravel roads throughout the region can expect to get some environmentally sensitive maintenance from those who attended a recent training session on the campus of Frostburg State University.

And, the techniques taught by instructors from the Center for Dirt & Gravel Road Studies at Penn State are also less expensive than traditional ones. The idea behind the training is to keep sediment from running into streams and rivers.

“Who could be against that? Better road, cleaner streams and less cost,” said Donnelle Keech of The Nature Conservancy. That organization, paired with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources sponsored the training.

Sixty-five attended the two-day training, some representing distant agencies such as the Anne Arundel Soil Conservation District.

“We can help with some funding to get people started using these techniques,” said instructor David M. Creamer. “When we know we have had an impact is when they start to use those same techniques with their own dollars.”

Traditionally, erosion on roads was corrected by digging up the entire roadbed and placing a 100-foot pipe beneath it, according to Creamer. The center teaches an approach whereby a 20-foot pipe is inserted through a bank on one side of the road, providing equal or superior erosion control.

Creamer tells students not to use more equipment than necessary because it would be “like picking your nose with your elbow.”

Bo Sliger is the maintenance chief for the Potomac-Garrett State Forest where he and his crew of three have 25 miles of dirt and gravel roads in Garrett County.

“Our road work is pretty much dependent on getting grants,” Sliger said. “We have gotten a number of them, mostly for $30,000. Our forest roads get used not just by motor vehicles but by ATVs, hikers and others.”

This week, the forest crew will be maintaining Piney Mountain Road near Cranesville. Snaggy Mountain Road is another that requires regular attention, Sliger said.

As the manager of the Allegany County Soil Conservation District, Craig Hartsock works with private landowners to help them maintain roads.

“Every farm has a farm lane or a woods road with bridges or stream crossings,” Hartsock said. “We have cost-sharing programs to help them improve roads and reduce erosion.” These projects are contracted, he said. “We have up to 200 of those projects a year.

“We also approve all forest harvest roads for loggers,” Hartsock said. “There are 40 or 50 of those every year.”

One inch of rain that falls in an hour can cause 13 to 54 tons of sediment to be discharged into streams, according to the maintenance specialists. The techniques taught by the center are meant to reduce that discharge. In the case of the Potomac River drainage, that would mean less sediment flowing to the Chesapeake Bay.

Contact Michael A. Sawyers at

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