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‘It’s a Fight for Salt’ as Shortage Continues [AUDIO]

UPDATE: The Associated Press is reporting that a barge is heading to Maine to pick up about 10,000 tons of salt. The shipment should arrive early next week.  In addition, New Jersey’s U.S. Senators Robert Menendez and Cory Booker wrote Tuesday to the Department of Homeland Security and Department of Transportation to come to New Jersey’s aid and fill a critical need for road salt.

With more snow and ice falling Tuesday, the Garden State’s road salt shortage continues to be a major concern.

(Credit: Purestock, ThinkStock)

“We probably have enough salt for this storm, and beyond that I can’t tell you yet,” said Jim Simpson, commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Transportation.

He said while the DOT was able to get a few tons of road salt from a supplier this past weekend, most of it will be used by the end of the day Tuesday, and the situation remains critical.

“Many towns have run out,” Simpson said. “Jersey City has run out. Monmouth did run out over the weekend but they were able to get some re-supply.”

He said as the head of transportation in the Garden State, he’s been in contact with several towns and cities, advising them to be extra cautious.

“I said if you’re down to a situation where you don’t have enough salt, then get your intersections, your curves, your hills, get your public safety officers out there, and let the folks in your town know that it’s not safe on certain roads,” Simpson said. “I’d rather not be able to leave my driveway, than leave my driveway and get onto a county road or a state road and get into an accident at a higher speed, do you follow what I’m saying?”

The commissioner said we’re not supposed to have any more snow for several days after this latest round of precipitation, but stressed “if we were to get hit with another storm in two days, we’d have to restrict some of our interstate highways. We might have to close down and only salt the right lane and center lane and keep the left lane closed, or take some other extreme measure.”

He also said other states have been contacted, but unfortunately they have no excess salt, so it’s now a fight for salt, which has become a rare commodity.

On Feb. 14, Townsquare Media broke the story involving the stalled shipment of salt after learning that a 94-year-old federal maritime was preventing the cargo from being transported to New Jersey. Urgent requests for a waiver were denied by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and state officials have spent more than a week trying to get it reconsidered.

After reading Townsquare’s initial report on Friday, The American Maritime Partnership, which serves as the voice of the nation’s domestic maritime industry, said, “New Jersey has filed a request for a Jones Act waiver for a foreign-flagged vessel and we are confident it will be considered fairly and appropriately in accordance with federal law.” A spokesperson said Monday that the AMP does not oppose the waiver request but has not taken a position on it. He said the organization was instead focused on helping to facilitate transport for the salt from Maine to New Jersey.

Late Monday, Thomas A. Allegretti, Chairman of the American Maritime Partnership released a statement saying “the maritime industry is working to ensure that the state has the resources it needs to meet its seasonal demand. Despite short notice by transportation officials, maritime operators are moving to accelerate a request for additional salt and will deliver a new shipment to New Jersey before it is needed again.”

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(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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