Kane County Public Lands Issues: Snow Removal Policy
Kane County Snow Removal Policy for Public Health, Safety and Welfare, Emergencies, and Search and Rescue
The letter below was written on December 22, 2008 and addresses Snow Removal on County Roads. The actual and other letters on this issue may be viewed by clicking on the forms / downloads link in the Commission section or the Public Lands Issues section of this website.
Protecting the health, safety, and welfare of the citizenry are of paramount importance to County officials. County governments have a long tradition of ensuring the public's safety and security through a multitude of county services, including search and rescue response, emergency operations, and winter snow removal from public travel ways. Kane County citizen's and visitors look to county government as the first line of defense to ensure their communities are safe and protected in times of natural and man-made disasters, terrorism, emergencies, and public safety threats. Emergency vehicle response, i.e., fire, ambulance, and law enforcement, must be assured.
The removal of snow from public travel ways to communities, residences, businesses, ranches and other locations falls under the County's primary responsibility to its residents, property owners and visitors to protect their health, safety, and welfare. County resources are insufficient to remove snow throughout the County, but arterial, collector, and school bus routes must be kept safe for the travelling public. It is, therefore, imperative that County officials exercise their discretion in deciding when and where to remove snow from travel ways to facilitate search and rescue, emergency operations, and minimize risks to public health, safety, and welfare.
A loss of life has already occurred due to exposure to winter conditions when a vehicle was trapped in snow and the person perished before help could reach the victim. The Board of Commissioners does not want to see another loss of life under similar conditions and approves this policy to prevent such a reoccurrence.
The Board of Commissioners may initiate snow removal and take other remedial action on travel ways within the County when it deems snow or ice conditions a threat to public health, safety and welfare sufficiently serious to justify the County's actions under the circumstances. The Sheriff may initiate snow removal when faced with an emergency or a search and rescue incident.
Such action may be initiated when the facts known by the County or presented to the County show an immediate and significant danger to the public health, safety, or welfare exists; and the threat requires immediate action by the County. In taking public health, safety, or welfare action on non-county property the County will take only the action necessary to prevent or avoid the danger to the public health, safety, or welfare, or to resolve the emergency or search and rescue incident.
The nature of winter snow and ice conditions is complex and extremely variable. Study, analysis and consultation provide minimal criteria or standards to guide specific snow removal activities. Study indicates that several entities initiate public safety snow removal when snowfall amounts to four inches (4"). The Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) initiates snow removal with two inches (2") to four inches (4") considering other factors. Under certain conditions less snow depth may require removal. For example, if the snow is wet and heavy, snow removal may be necessary upon the accumulation of three inches (3") of snow or if additional rapid accumulations are expected from heavy storm forecasts. In other cases a depth above four inches (4") may not pose a public safety hazard if it is a dry fluffy snow and a melt off is forecast.
Two driving lanes are generally necessary to allow passing to avoid vehicles becoming trapped in deep snow. Under this public safety policy, the County may not remove snow to the full road width as it does for routine County highway maintenance. Snow can accumulate to a depth of four feet (4') in parts of the County. In an emergency, it would be impossible or extremely difficult to remove an accumulated four feet (4') of snow from travel ways. Many other factors may need to be considered and analyzed for the County to exercise its discretion to remove snow for public health, safety, and welfare, or for emergency or search and rescue operations. The safety of County employees and volunteers is paramount regarding a response to public safety situations and emergency operations.
On travel ways where the County has installed hard surface material the snow may be removed to the surface to correct a public safety threat and facilitate melt off, i.e., Hancock Road, Sand Dunes Road and Johnson Canyon Road. On travel ways where the County has installed road base the snow may be removed to the travel surface. On native surface travel ways previously maintained, caution should be used not to come into contact with the surface of native dirt travel ways. A snow base of two inches (2") should be left. On native surface travel ways not previously maintained by the County a snow base of four (4") inches should be left to assure no contact with the travel surface. However, if in the judgment of the snow equipment operator a snow base would result in a significant public safety hazard, i.e., on steep hills or during thaw-freeze cycles, it may be necessary to remove snow to the travel surface to assure the travelling public's safety.
The Commission will make the decision regarding public health, safety, and welfare situations. The Sheriff will make the decision regarding search and rescue incidents or emergency operations. County officials and employees will consult on a case-by-case and road specific basis, considering the available resources, the guidelines discussed above, and the specific circumstances as they may apply. Road crews will consult with supervisors regarding on site conditions or changing conditions. In instances where a snow equipment operator is on site without communications, the employee may have to make a decision using his or her best judgment under the circumstances.