According to a collaborative project report from the U.S. Geological Survey and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, 92% of the roads in the National Wildlife Refuge System are unpaved. Visitors to Hagerman NWR who travel Wildlife Drive can imagine the dust problem, magnified among the more than 500 refuges in the U.S. “Dust can impair visibility, creating driving hazards…and decrease the quality of public use such as wildlife observation and photography.”
Studies of various dust control methods to date have not included determination of environmental impact. The current collaborative project addresses environmental effects directly and is seeking to identify safe and effective dust control products for use on Refuge and other Federal lands; the goal - to reduce dust, improve driver safety, and reduce road degradation, at the same time protecting fish, wildlife and plants.
Testing at Hagerman NWR is the third and final phase of the project, evaluating “product performance and verifying environmental safety under real-world conditions.” There will be a pre-application assessment, application of various products, and follow-up monitoring of environmental effects and effectiveness of the products applied.
The process will begin July 8 along Wildlife Drive, which will closed to traffic July 8 -13. Whaley says," If the work is completed before Friday, we will re-open the road."
The project report describes the three phases of the work at Hagerman:
a. Pre-application surveys—To accurately establish biological baselines prior to product application, roadside vegetation, vertebrates, and possibly invertebrates will be surveyed along each test section. Water quality conditions (e.g., dissolved oxygen, pH, conductivity) will be measured when roadside aquatic habitats occur, and soil samples will be taken for analysis at several distances along transects perpendicular to the road. Dust production will be quantified with mobile-mounted and/or stationary real-time aerosol monitors. Baseline road condition (e.g., presence of washboarding/raveling) will also be assessed.
b. Product applications—Three dust control/soil stabilizer products representing different product classes (organic, synthetic fluid, and chloride-based; …) will be applied to road sections in a eplicated design that will allow comparisons among products and between treated and untreated sections. Prior to applications, road surfaces will be brought up to optimum moisture content (OMC), bladed and shaped. The application procedure for each product will follow vendor recommendations, including tank mix dilution, application rate, number of passes, and compaction.
c. Post-application monitoring—Roadside plants and animals will be monitored at intervals as described above, and product performance will be evaluated concurrently, using established metrics of road condition. Soil samples from established transects will be analyzed periodically throughout the monitoring period to track any changes in soil chemistry associated with transport of dust or treated dust. Mobile-mounted and/or stationary aerosol monitors will be used to quantify airborne particulate matter throughout the monitoring period, and particulate sampling devices may deployed along the roadside transects described above. Samples of treated aggregate will be taken as products weather in the field for use in laboratory-based tests. In-situ tests with plant seedlings or caged aquatic organisms may be deployed in areas adjacent to treated sections during
and immediately following applications.
Visitors to the Refuge should be able in the future to look forward to less dust and more enjoyment of their visit, while the environment is being protected, not only at Hagerman NWR, but throughout the Refuge system and Federal lands, as a result of the project.
Information provided by Kathy Whaley, Refuge Manager and USGS-USFWS, "Field Test of Dust Control Methods for USFWS Refuges"