MnDOT, farmers join forces to build ‘snow fences’

Snow fences ease the frequency of MnDOT’s plowing services on roads that collect the most snow drifts.
Published: Jan. 9, 2023 at 9:33 AM CST
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MANKATO, Minn. (KEYC) - Farmers and plows have been attempting to combat against monstrous drifting snow.

MnDOT uses special barriers called “snow fences.”

It’s a collaborative effort between MnDOT and local farmers to enforce safe driving conditions.

“We identify the locations where we have blowing snow problems,” explained MnDOT Maintenance Operations Director Scott Morgan. “And then we try to work together collaboratively to come up with the best solution for both the traveling public, MnDOT as a whole, and the landowners.”

Snow fences ease the frequency of MnDOT’s plowing services on roads that collect the most snow drifts.

The main goal of these constructed fences is to prevent snow drifts on roads, improve visibility and reduce crashes, and decrease salt and chemical use.

“We have snow fences along Highway 14 and many places along Highway 60 especially points out west along I-90,” said Morgan. “They’re pretty visible from the highways. You can see the effect of those snow fences and how much snow they’ve captured.”

A farmer from Madison Lake, Scott Dauk has only heard good things about the fences.

“I’ve heard a lot of people from the community of Madison Lake saying how good it is for the stretch of road right here,” said Dauk.

MnDOT compensates farmers varying on how much snow is left on property or how much of the farmer’s land and resources are used for the fences.

“We’re paying them for the value of the corn because they’re leaving the corn in the field,” said Morgan.

And there’s benefits for farmers like Dauk -- even though the snow fences take portions of a harvesting area.

“We just have to farm around it,” said Dauk. “Which isn’t a big deal, because we’ve come to an agreement with MnDOT on how far away from the right-away [is] so our equipment all fits down that narrow stretch.”

There are three types of MNDOT snow fences:

  • Structural, with a built-in railing-
  • Living, using planted shrubs as a barrier
  • Vegetative, with standing corn rows that are eventually harvested the following spring.

Dauk says his living snow fence, which was planted in the summer of 2021, has a durability of at least 15 years.

“After you saw what it did to hold out the snow from keeping it back from the road was really impressive and the ditches stay cleaner,” said Dauk.

MnDOT says they’re always looking for farmers to provide input and resources for new snow fences.

“We’re always looking for new sites that are subject to blowing snow problems out there and trying to work with the landowners,” said Morgan. “We’ve learned more about the snow fence and how the wind behaves and we’ve learned how to plan and design these better.”