Road Ecology Center
Reconditioning and stabilization of unpaved roads for reducing road maintenance and impacts on fisheries habitat
- Author(s): Sheehy, Donna McConnaha
- et al.
Forest Managers are facing a series of problems that are making it difficult to effectively manage the vast national system of over 644,000km (400,000 miles) of forest roads and protect the environment. Current national funding levels are inadequate to maintain these roads to environmental and safety standards. With years of low maintenance budgets, many of these roads are worn out and not maintainable. Current methods of reconditioning and stabilizing worn-out native and aggregate surface roads have had limited success and can be quite costly. Pit development for aggregate surfacing can also be an expensive and lengthy process. In addition, there may be environmental impacts associated with pit development. Road maintenance is necessary to prevent damage to the road, to maintain safety, and to preclude adverse impacts to resources resulting from lack of road maintenance. When maintenance is not performed, roads can be major sources of sediment deposited into streams. This is especially critical when roads are adjacent to streams with sensitive species and any sediment deposited into the streams could have adverse effects. However, road maintenance activities can also result in direct sediment delivery to streams. Ground disturbance from road blading constitutes the greatest risk to adjacent streams from increased sediment production. Oftentimes, road managers are left with the options of either not maintaining the road at all or with a very short window of operation that may not allow for the best level of maintenance on the road. Obviously, there is a need to develop a tough, stable, long-lasting, maintainable road surface that will weather well, require less maintenance (particularly blading), and cost substantially less than importing or replacing crushed aggregate surfacing. In 1990, the Northern Region of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service began utilizing and evaluating a machine called the Mobile In Place Processor to recondition native surfaced roads. In 1998, the Forest Service began adding binders to the in place processing to stabilize both aggregate and native surfaced roads. Preliminary studies indicate that roads treated in this manner require less maintenance. The running surface does not washboard, ravel or generate dust, and surface erosion is significantly reduced which equates to less sediment in adjacent drainages. The end product is a much more serviceable road with little to no impact on watersheds and fisheries habitat.