SEARSPORT, Maine — Some of the 40,000 tons of rock salt destined for New Jersey’s roads is one step closer to hitting the high seas Friday after being marooned for days at a Maine port.
Jim Therriault of Sprague Energy, the company that owns the Mack Point Marine Intermodal Cargo Terminal in Searsport, said Friday morning that workers labored overnight in snow and sleet to load a barge with some of the salt. About 10 people began loading the barge at 6 p.m. and finished just before dawn, he said, but the heavy fog hanging over the coast means that the barge still can’t get underway.
“I think that once the fog clears, they can start moving. By the Fourth of July, they should have it,” he joked.
All joking aside, the barge should be able to leave sometime Friday and once it gets moving, it likely will be close to New Jersey by Saturday morning, Therriault said. Officials from that state said they expected it to arrive by early next week.
There is a critical shortage of rock salt in New Jersey, which already has used nearly twice the amount of salt this winter than it did last year.
“It’s been a huge amount,” New Jersey Department of Transportation spokesperson Joe Dee said Friday, adding that so far the state has spread 442,000 tons of rock salt on its roads. “Last year, all winter season, we used 258,000 tons. That just shows the demand. It’s not just the DOT — counties and municipalities are eager for new shipments.”
The state of New Jersey last week was denied a waiver of federal shipping rules that would have allowed a South American-flagged cargo ship to bring a shipment of rock salt from Mack Point to a Newark Port, Reuters reported Tuesday. The Jones Act of 1920 prevents foreign-flagged ships from operating between two American ports.
Dee said that it will take multiple trips by barge to get all of the 40,000 tons of rock salt from Searsport to New Jersey, because only 9,500 tons can be carried by the barge on each trip.
“We’re aware that foul weather can affect the progress of the barge,” he said. “We are eager for it to arrive. Then we’ll head back and get more.”
New Jersey has just enough salt left for “one good storm, and that’s it,” he said.
But in a piece of meteorological good fortune that has otherwise been rare this stormy winter, the weather forecast for New Jersey looks good. Also, another large salt supplier was able to get a ship into Newark Thursday, which was being unloaded Friday.
“We’ve been very thankful for mild weather here,” Dee said. “It’s good news, that there’s salt on the way.”