Sediment Pollution and Dirt Roads
Man made sediment is by volume the largest pollutant in the waters of Pennsylvania and unpaved roads are a major source of such sediment pollution. Traditional road construction and maintenance practices focused on getting water off the roads and into streams in the quickest way possible. Many rural roads were not designed for car and truck traffic, but rather started as footpaths or horse trails and were built up into roads. These kinds of roads also tend to be parallel to streams and rivers and can easily deposit more sediment due to their proximity. Pennsylvania has over 20,000 miles of unpaved roads which can cumulatively be a major source of point source pollution.
The Dirt Gravel and Low Volume Road Program
The DGLVR program got its start when Trout Unlimited brought the problem of unpaved road runoff and water quality into the spotlight starting around 1991. Trout Unlimited and many volunteers put a lot of work into taking a road inventory of impacted streams and as a result of this and significant legislative work the first funding became available in 1998. The goal of the program is to provide the financial and technical resources to local townships, municipalities, etc to address dirt gravel and low volume roads that are impacting streams. The DGLVR program which is affiliated with Penn State University on the research end, is to provide long term effective solutions to stabilize roads and reduce or eliminate pollution from unpaved roads.
Wayne Conservation District and the DGLVR Program
Wayne Conservation District has been involved in the program since its inception. Since 1998 the WCD has overseen the completion of 187 projects totaling 112 miles of Dirt, Gravel, and Low Volume Roads. Since 2017 WCD has had a full time DGLVR specialist to assist as a technical resource for guidance, review DGLVR applications, monitor projects, and keep up to date on approved techniques as improvements to standards are made. WCD oversees the disbursement of the program funds to townships and municipalities. The municipalities do the work themselves or hire contractors to complete the work on the project sites. Our full time DGLVR technician is also available to provide guidance and direction to resources for best practices for road construction and environmentally sensitive road maintenance for private road owners, townships, etc.
The goal of the program is to provide road which are stable, easy to maintain, and don't erode and cause sediment pollution into the water. The foundation of the program is to provide adequate drainage for roads. Frequently more, larger, and better placed drainage pipes are installed. Sometimes more adequate drainage may mean a bridge replacement, which can be funded by the program like the following picture from the DGLVR website(it's not in Wayne County). One larger channel is always better as two smaller channels can more easily become clogged and overtop the road leading to not only pollution but can be a safety hazard as well!
As part of solving drainage it is sometimes necessary to raise the road surface up, particularly if the road has become entrenched. The road is often topped with a material known as DSA(Driving Surface Aggregate). DSA is a very specific aggregate designed for maximum wear, minimal pollution and maintenance. To be used on a DGLVR funded site the DSA must be approved and certified and applied under specific conditions. Once down the DSA makes for an excellent road surface which can last many years if properly maintained. Here is another picture from the DGLVR site of a rutted, saturated road and how it looks after being addressed by the DGLVR program.
Low Volume Roads
Low Volume Roads are paved roads which have less than 500 cars traveling on them in a single day. Low Volume roads although paved can often benefit from having drainage issues addressed, bridges replaced and properly sized, etc.
What roads are eligible?
Local roads maintained by townships, municipalities, boroughs, etc may be eligible. Typically state roads are not. The focus of the program being pollution reduction the program gives priority to those roads closer to a stream or river and impacting it. Townships, municalities, etc submit their DGLVR applications to the WCD and the technical staff review the applications, rank the applications and they are brought before a board for final voting. If you have a road which you think is a good candidate for the DGLVR program, contact your local township and or the Wayne Conservation District and we'd be glad to take a look and or provide guidance on it!
Penn State DGLVR is the primary resource for DGLVR guidance. There is ample up to date information on the program, the program history, future, and technical bulletins and guidance. Even if you're just building a long driveway the Penn State DGLVR program can be a great resource for technical guidance on durable proper construction!