Michigan Senate votes to try sugar beet juice on icy roadways


A pile of sugar beets sits in what began the day as an empty lot at Michigan Sugar Company’s processing facility in Monitor Township during early delivery as Michigan’s sugar beet season begins on Aug. 30, 2016. (Photo Courtesy of Jacob Hamilton from MLive.com)

Sugar beet juice could be used to remove ice from Michigan roads.

The Michigan Senate voted 34-2 today to have the Michigan Department of Transportation to start a pilot program to explore using salt with sugar beet juice for icy road conditions.

Most roads in Michigan are currently cleared with salt and some areas use sand, according to our media partners at MLive.

Sen. Roger Victory, R-Hudsonville, said incorporating sugar beets into the mix could make sense for Michigan because it sticks to the road, is less corrosive and melts ice at lower temperatures than salt. He said road salt can have an environmental impact, citing an example in his district of blueberry farms being affected by salt coming off the roads.

In 2016, Michigan harvested nearly 160,000 acres of sugarbeets, according to the Michigan Department of Agriculture.

Sen. Curt VanderWall, R-Ludington, is one of the two lawmakers who voted against Victory’s bill. He said he’s concerned sugar beet juice could impact Michigan streams and rivers.

“I want to make sure that any decision that we make doesn’t have a long-term effect on the environment,” he said. “It always sounds good that we’re using something organic…I’m concerned that it’s going to cause some issues long term.”

The legislation is similar to House Bill 4716, introduced by Rep. Brian Elder, D-Bay City, earlier this year. Victory said he’s discussed the issue with Elder and is hopeful for bipartisan support in the House.

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