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Willow Woody Biomass
Willow Living Snow Fences

Blowing and drifting snow can increase the cost of highway maintenance and create hazardous driving conditions. These problems occur when snow is lifted off the ground by wind and transported across an open area towards a road. Local and state agencies in the United States spend over $2 billion annually on snow and ice control, and over $300 million annually in New York State alone. Living snow fences (LSF) can mitigate blowing snow problems, reduce the cost of highway maintenance and improve highway safety. LSF are rows of trees or shrubs that perform the same function as wooden or plastic snow fences by disrupting wind patterns, creating turbulence around the fence and causing snow to be deposited in designated areas.

Shrub willow is an ideal plant choice for LSF because of its rapid height growth, high branch density and relatively low cost of installation compared to other vegetation types. Numerous LSF of various species have been installed over the past decade and longer by the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT). The Willow Project at SUNY-ESF has recently collaborated with NYSDOT on a multi-year applied research and technology transfer project called "Designing, Developing and Implementing a Living Snow Fence Program for New York State" (NYSDOT Research Project C-06-09).

This project provided a literature review; training materials; classroom and field workshops on LSF design, installation and maintenance; four demonstration sites with installed LSF; protocols for the assessment of sites and operational fences; a study of 18 LSF using these protocols; the identification of key factors for successful LSF in NY State and beyond; and a benefit-cost tool. Key research outcomes include improved understanding of snow trapping function as LSF grow over time and improved design recommendations based on these findings. Applying these design standards along with best practices for installation and maintenance developed in this project can increase the feasibility and effectiveness of LSF. Well designed and managed LSF can produce numerous economic, safety and environmental benefits to transportation agencies and the public. The results of this project and add it ti on al information is provided below.

Final Report

Fact Sheets

Technical Reports



Benefit-Cost Model