the road less traveled
The Newsletter of the Center for Dirt and Gravel Roads at Penn State
 A newly installed "Bottomless Box Culvert" in Cumberland County.
August 2017
In This Issue
Upcoming Events
State College
August 22-23

  Annual Workshop
Bradford County

Pike County

Berks County

Centre County
Q & A
Q: Does the Program have any maintenance requirements after projects are complete, and can a district make their own?

A:   No, there are no statewide maintenance requirements for grant recipients once projects are complete.  Yes, Districts are able to make their own policies.
With nearly 500 projects hitting the ground annually, this is an increasingly popular question.  Should you continue to fund projects to an applicant that is not maintaining past projects?  The variation in districts and applicants around the state makes a statewide policy potentially difficult. Districts, however, are able to make their own local maintenance policies.  Maintenance policies can have positive and negative impacts on county programs. On one hand, maintenance policies can insure the long term sustainability of projects. On the other hand, overly strong maintenance policies may deter potential applicants from applying in the first place.

"Post project maintenance" will be a major discussion point during the optional day-one of the annual workshop in Bradford County on Sept 26.  We will take a look at an existing local policy or two, and even go out in the field to evaluate a few projects.  Be sure to come early for this optional session and trip if post-project maintenance is a concern in your county.

Center for Dirt & Gravel
Road Studies;
Larson Transportation Institute
Penn State University
201 Transportation Research Building, PA  16802
Toll-Free 1-866-NO-TO-MUD

The Center provides education, outreach, and technical assistance related to PA's Dirt, Gravel, and Low-Volume Road Maintenance Program. 

 Support provided by:
PA State Conservation Commission

2017 Annual Workshop   

Registration is open for the 2017 Workshop to be held in Bradford County on September 26th-28th, 2017 at the Best Western Grand Victorian Inn, Sayre, PA.  Full details and registration link available here.  Workshop highlights include:
Tuesday 9/26 (optional):
- GIS and Administrative Trainings
- Discussion and field trip on post-project maintenance
- Municipal tour of field sites
Wednesday 9/27:
- Invited speakers and concurrent class sessions
- Two separate field trips to sites in Bradford County
- 20th Anniversary Banquet
Thursday 9/28:
- Repeat of two field trips
- Brief closing session
"Policy and Planning" Workgroup Update

The "Policy and Planning" Workgroup advises the State Conservation Commission on administrative issues related to the DGLVR Program.  Conservation Districts comprise the vast majority of the workgroup, with a few participants from other organizations such as DEP, PSATS, and PAFBC.  The group met in July to discuss a range of topics, and several smaller sub-workgroups were formed to tackle some of the larger issues.  A brief summary of some of the major discussion topics is below, look for more details in the future:

The current allocation formula that distributes  funding to Conservation Districts was last discussed in 2014 when additional Program funding was  received.  The workgroup decided back in 2014 to use the initial formula for a three year period, then to re-evaluate it to determine if any changes are needed.  A sub-group was formed to discuss the issue in detail, and their first meeting will be held this fall.

The Program's "Quality Assurance Quality Control" (QAQC) effort visits individual Conservation Districts to insure the Program is being properly administered and that effective projects are being implemented.  The second round of QAQC visits will wrap up in September, having visited all 65 participating Conservation Districts since 2015.  The current plan is to start with round-three of QAQC visits in 2018, and to maintain a three-year cycle for visiting each county.  A sub-group has been formed to review and make improvements  to the QAQC process, with an initial meeting in the works for early fall.

Financial Accountability:
The DGLVR Program has received nearly twice as much funding in the four years since the 2014 funding increase, than it did in the first 17 years combined.  With more money comes increased accountability.  A sub-group has been formed to address issues such as unclaimed replenishment funds, spending requirements, and increasing the level and frequency of financial detail collected from Conservation Districts.  The sub-group met once in August, and will continue to work, discuss, and report back to the larger workgroup.

Driving Surface Aggregate:
While DSA is relatively easy to obtain across much of the state, there are regions where quality aggregate is not available locally and DSA must be trucked in a high cost.  The Center is working with counties in these area to increase availability at more quarries, and to discuss other options that would increase supply and reduce costs in these locations.
Local Extreme Rains Causing Road Damage
Project damage from an severe 2017 rain event.

While it is has been a wet year for  nearly everyone across PA, there have been some particularly large events causing severe damage in localized areas.  There are many reports of highly localized storms dumping six to eight inches of rain over very short time periods.  The good news is that we often hear reports such as: "all the roads in the area were washed out except where we did that project".  However, not all "act of God" rain events can be planned for.  The Center has been working with several Conservation Districts to address damage to projects that were in progress or recently completed.  The option to fund previously completed projects that have been damaged by such events is at the discretion  of local Conservation Districts and their Quality Assurance Boards.  Anyone who attends the 2017 workshop may see the remnants of storm damage from a late July storm as we travel around Bradford County. 
Center's PSU Course on Tap Again for Fall 2017

As previously reported, the Center developed a three-credit course entitled "ERM 497: Rural Road Ecology and Maintenance", and delivered it to 22 students at Penn State's main campus in the fall of 2016.  Students came from a variety of majors such as Environmental Resource Management, Forestry, Civil Engineering, and more.    The PSU College of Agriculture has agreed to fund the course for the fall of 2017. There are currently 19 students enrolled in the class that begins on August 22nd.
DCNR-Specific ESM Training

August 22-23, 2017 marks the third annual ESM Training specifically targeting personnel involved with the Dirt, Gravel, and Low Volume Road Program with the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR).  While DCNR employees are still free to attend any of the regional ESM trainings held around the state, this training has been tailored to align more closely with practices and projects that apply to State Forest roads. This year's training will also feature a 1/2 day field component that will get attendees out to see some projects in the State College area.   DCNR receives an annual Program allocation of $7 million.  Look for a future newsletter dedicated to a closer look at the DCNR portion of the DGLVR Program.
In Other News...
This recurring feature highlights related topics outside the Program.
CIG Research Grant Submitted:

Note this proposed project has been submitted, but no funding announcements have yet been made.

Woodchip Bioreactor
-Cornell University
The Center h as collaborated  with C ornell University  and  the Bradford County Conservation District to submit a Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG) to NRCS.  The proposed project will focus on utilizing farm lanes as a mechanism to treat nitrogen from agricultural runoff. Dirt and Gravel Road ESM practices would be implemented on the farm lane to reduce the impacts of road drainage.  The farm lane ditches would then be fitted with "Woodchip Bioreactors" in an effort to remove nitrogen in the runoff from adjacent agricultural fields.  Cornell University would be leading the implementation of these bioreactors based on research and projects they have completed in the past.  The practices would be implemented in Bradford County, and the Bradford County Conservation District would play a  significant role in project implementation and monitoring. A funding announcement for this submitted grant is expected before the September workshop.  If funded, we would likely discuss project details on one of the workshop field trip sites that may be used for the project.
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