Road Reflections: Winter Maintenance

By Steve Klatt
Reader Contributor

Hello Bonner County drivers; it’s beginning to look like we may need to be ready for winter driving a bit earlier than usual this year, and I hope most of you have gotten your winter tires on your rigs. 

Our observation in the Road Department is that there appears to be many new residents in the county and that also means there will be many people unfamiliar with Bonner County plowing protocols. Please remember that county roads are not maintained 24 hours a day, seven days a week and make sure you have good winter tires on your rig. Having just seen the local winter forecast for 12 feet of accumulated snowfall this coming winter, please be prepared for a steady routine of slippery roads.

Winter road maintenance is expensive, hazardous for operators and time consuming. Bonner County spent nearly $2,000,000 last winter providing safer roads. Snow plowing commences after several inches have accumulated on roadways. Bonner County Road & Bridge operates three districts to maintain 700 miles of road, but all adhere to these priorities for our winter maintenance:

First Priority — school bus routes, arterials and major collectors;

Second Priority — all other county maintained roads after First Priority roadways;

Third Priority — sanding generally begins after plowing a road is completed. Sand is applied to steeper roadway grades, at intersections, on bridges, and other areas determined to be hazardous. It is not standard policy to sand straight stretches of roadway because of snow floor. Road salt is not used. 

Mailboxes in county road rights-of-way suffer greatly from snow plowing activity and are the responsibility of the owner. Most people underestimate the weight of snow being pushed from the road, so if you can wiggle your mailbox, there is a fair probability that plowed snow will take it down. County operators do not intentionally damage mailboxes, but maintain speed to throw snow from the road. 

The growing number of garbage cans placed for pickup within the right-of-way must be kept out of the plowed travel surface because they will end up in the ditch and create an unsightly mess for which individuals are responsible.

Residents who remove snow from their driveways are reminded that Idaho Code 18-3906 prohibits placing snow or ice on any public road in a manner that impedes traffic or makes it unsafe. As well, 18-3907 prohibits the placing of snow in any manner that affects the water flow of a ditch line. If your snow plowing affects the county’s plowing or anyone driving the road, you are breaking the law.

You can help

• Vehicles must not be parked on roads during snow events. Vehicles will be buried in the snow berm and/or towed if interfering with the plow route. It is the resident’s responsibility to shovel out their vehicle. 

• Landscape features such as rocks, fences or planters should be removed from the rights-of-way for the winter. They may be destroyed by snow plowing, but they also can do substantial damage to snow plows. Owners are responsible for county equipment unnecessarily damaged.

• Do not push snow over ends of culverts or drainage structures. Rapid warming cycles in winter could result in overloaded ditches being unable to drain. Local flooding could occur.

• Replacement of damaged mailboxes is the responsibility of the property owner/resident.

• Drivers of automobiles should follow at a safe distance when operators of snow removal equipment are working — especially in the dark. Make sure the driver can see you in their mirrors. 

• Children love to watch the large equipment, noise, lights and activity of snow removal operations. Please keep children a safe distance away.

• Please encourage children not to build tunnels, forts or play in snow berms next to roadways.

Information on the Road and Bridge website,, may help residents be proactive in securing their mailboxes and safeguarding articles placed in the county right-of-way. We want everyone to have a safe and secure winter.

For further information, please call the Bonner County Road and Bridge Department at 208-255-5681, ext. 1; Monday-Friday, 7a.m.-4 p.m.

Steve Klatt is the director of the Bonner County Road and Bridge Department.

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