Dirt, Gravel and Low Volume Roads


Environmental Sensitive Maintenance (ESM) Training

Conneaut Lake, PA ⋅ May 17th & 18th, 2017

Follow Link For Registration: ESM Course Registration

Class Location: Conneaut Lake Sportsmen’s Association
118361 Sportsman Road
Conneaut Lake, PA 16316
8 am – 4 pm

Not Sure If You Should Attend?  Check Out The ESM Eligibility List For Current Certification Standing

Program Documents Quick Links:

Dirt Gravel and Low Volume Roads Grant Application

Low Volume Traffic Count Validation Form


Dirt, Gravel and Low Volume Roads Program

Why is sediment pollution a problem?

Sediment is the largest pollutant by volume in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Sediment from roads, farms, construction sites, logging, and a host of other sources combine to form the largest single contributor of pollution of the state’s waters. With the growing environmental awareness of the seventies and eighties, most point source pollution (pollution that has a particular entry site such as a factory’s smokestack or pipe) sites have been under strict regulation. With the decline of point source pollution problems, non-point source pollution (pollution generated over a broad area instead of originating from an identified source) has become a growing concern.

Pennsylvania’s roads are a great example of non-point source pollution. There are hundreds of thousands of miles of road in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania also has the largest network of rivers and streams in the United States with the exception of Alaska. Unfortunately, this network of streams becomes an all to convenient disposal area for road runoff. Traditional thinking in road maintenance has been to get water off of the roads and into streams by the quickest means possible. This practice results in thousands of tons of sediment, not to mention what is being carried with it, being deposited into the state’s streams.

The presence of sediment is a natural and necessary part of a healthy stream. The addition of excess sediment, however, can cause great harm to the aquatic ecosystem. Here are some of the effects of excess sediment:

  • Disruption of natural stream order and flow
  • Damage to fish species through direct abrasion to body and gills
  • Loss of fish spawning areas due to the filling in of gaps in streambeds
  • A breakdown in the aquatic food chain as sediment suffocates small organisms living in the streambed
  • Accelerated filling in of dams and reservoirs
  • A change in the water composition in the Chesapeake Bay and other estuaries

What is the Dirt & Gravel Road Pollution Prevention Program?

The “Program” is an innovative effort to educate the public about pollution problems from roads and to fund “environmentally sound” maintenance of unpaved roadways that have been identified as sources of dust and sediment pollution. Signed into law in April of 1997 as Section 9106 of the PA Vehicle Code (§9106), the program is based on the principle that informed local control is the most effective way to stop pollution. The law created a dedicated, non-lapsing fund to provide money to local communities for education and local road maintenance by way of streamlined appropriations to local conservation districts for use by local road maintenance entities under the environmental guidance of a local Quality Assurance Board (QAB). The QAB is made up of representatives of the Conservation District, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, and the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission.

Who is eligible for these funds?

Local municipalities and state agencies who own or have jurisdiction for the identified worksites are the only entities that can receive funds. The training and technical assistance are open to all.

How are worksites determined?

Conservation officials, sometimes accompanied by road officials, drove all unpaved roads identified by the townships. They assessed 12 factors known to contribute to dust and sediment pollution in locations where the drainage from the road reached open water. This verification process identified where streams or rivers were negatively affected. A unique number is assigned to each road site to make it eligible for repairs and to maintain statewide records.

Is this list final?

Periodically a new assessment is performed to update the potential worksites; however, a procedure exits to correct errors and omissions.  There are over 17,000 sites currently identified statewide.  If a site is sealed or paved, the site loses its eligibility.  Applications can also be made to convert a sealed or paved road to a gravel road.

What are the requirements to receive funds?

Owners of “worksites” are eligible to apply for funds once officials have attended the required 2-day “Environmentally Sensitive Road Maintenance” training.

What steps are required?

  1. Road supervisors are encouraged to meet on-site with conservation officials, including the members of the QAB, and agree on corrective actions that are appropriate, affordable, and feasible.
  2. The one-page “Grant Application” is to be completed describing the agreed upon work. The applicants are to determine the cost figures to be submitted. Any required permits must be obtained or, if acceptable to the conservation district, be “in process” at this time.
  3. The QAB reviews all applications, according to adopted timeframes and schedules. The QAB makes project-funding recommendations to the County Conservation District Directors.
  4. The County Conservation District Directors discuss and vote on applications in an open public meeting. They may request changes, reject, approve or approve with alteration each grant application.
  5. Once awarded a grant, a simple one-page contract with a signature sheet is prepared. The contract amount has numerous attachment including:
    • The grant application;
    • Other detailed specifications;
    • The “Statement of Policy” describing the requirements the conservation district and project owner have agreed to fulfill;
    • Government boilerplate requirements.
  6. Once the contract is signed, the applicant may request a partial up-front payment. This provision is intended to cover the cost of materials or any advance expenditures to expedite the project.
  7. Work can commence anytime after the contract is signed. Work completed before the contract is signed cannot be paid for under the contract.
  8. Contracts can be amended by describing the agreed upon changes, attaching them to the one page standard amendment language and having all parties sign.
  9. If third party contractors are to be employed on the project, contracts with them must include the full Conservation District/ Applicant Contract including attachments.


For more information please visit the Center for Dirt & Gravel Road Studies.