An obscure 1920 regulation is preventing 40,000 tons of rock salt to reach icy New Jersey, forcing local authorities to toss pickle juice onto the roads and hope for the best. According to local news reports, the ship holding the precious cargo will not be allowed to leave Maine until it dons a U.S. flag.
No cargo ship is permitted to leave one port in the United States destined for another port in the country without an American flag flying atop its mast, according to the 1920 Maritime Act. The Star-Ledger notes that the federal government is trying to work a remedy around the lack of a flag in order to get the salt shipment to New Jersey within the week.
“Despite short notice by transportation officials, maritime operators are moving to accelerate a request for additional salt and will deliver a new shipment to New Jersey before it is needed again,” said Thomas A. Allegretti, Chairman of the American Maritime Partnership.
One potential solution proposed would be to use a ship currently stocked with salt and flying the U.S. flag, but the closest one to New Jersey would take weeks to arrive. No reports indicate any movement towards buying a U.S. flag and flying it from the mast of the Maine ship.
Local authorities, in the meantime, are doing what they can to keep the roads safe. Many of New Jersey’s roads and sidewalks are buried under inches of thick ice, and parking spots are rare. One local bus driver, whose route begins at the George Washington Bridge and ends in downtown Jersey City, told Breitbart News that suburban Fort Lee and the northern parts of Jersey City were the most dangerous to navigate because of the ice; many of the main streets of Jersey City boasted a full sheet of ice over the asphalt earlier this week.
Northern Hudson and southern Bergen counties have been the hardest-hit by the rock salt shortage, and mayors there are throwing the kitchen sink at solving the ice problem. Many have resorted to what Fox News describes as “a briny pickle juice-like mixture” as an alternative while they wait. Others are attempting to find alternative sources; Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop joked on Twitter that mayors discussing rock salt spoke of it as if they were talking about drugs. Mayor Fulop also announced that he had found an alternate source and that Jersey City received 500 tons of rock salt:
— Steven (Steve) Fulop (@StevenFulop) February 17, 2014
Despite the home remedies that mayors have been getting by on while the rock salt shipment stalls in Maine, New Jersey officials are incensed. New Jersey Assemblyman Jon Bramnick told CBS News that he was “deeply troubled” by the fact that the federal government had not proposed a waiver of the Maritime Act requirement to place a flag on the ship. Waivers are permitted should the government grant them, but authorities have only said that they are “working with” New Jersey on figuring out the situation, while days pass and commuters continue to struggle on slippery roads.
The rock salt shortage is due to the abnormally large amount of snow the state has seen this month. CBS News notes that New Jersey used 370,000 tons of rock salt as of last week, while having only used 258,000 tons all of last winter. While temperatures are expected to heat up over the next week, meteorologists predict there is still a slight chance of seeing more snow before the spring.