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Pass the salt: Worries about supply for winter road treatments

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Minnesota motorists may be forced onto a sort of low-sodium diet this winter as concern about adequate road salt supplies begins to build.

The Associated Press reports the supply is tight because so much salt was used last winter. The frigid weather and record-setting temperatures ate through salt stockpiles. The report also said states in the Midwest face prices that are as much as twice what they were last season.

The Brainerd Dispatch reports the city's supplier sold only half of Brainerd's normal ration of salt – 125 tons, compared to the usual 250 tons – because of the shortage. The story says the city is looking to other suppliers to find additional tonnage, and may dilute its sand-salt mixture to extend the supply.

The shortage is also pushing up the price for Brainerd, which paid $102 per ton, a significant increase over the $75 per ton its previously paid. ABC6 in Austin, Minnesota quotes the city finance director there, who said the price of salt Austin buys is going up by $10 per ton.

The story cites a spokesman for the Minnesota Department of Transportation in Rochester, who told the station the southeastern part of the state may have readier access to supplies because of its proximity to the Mississippi River.

"Much of the salt is brought up by barge, so our shipping costs are less than if you live in Bemidji or Moorhead," the DOT's Mike Dougherty explained.

A national review of the road salt shortage by the Washington Post puts Minnesota in better shape than many other snowbelt states. The story said many Minnesota communities are paying about 4 percent more for salt, because the state secured supplies last spring before prices jumped. The story said that Wisconsin is paying 14 percent more and prices jumped by 46 percent in Michigan.

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