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Decades-old maritime law blocks salt shipments to NJ as supplies dwindle

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WESTFIELD, New Jersey (PIX11) – The shed that normally stores rock salt for public work crews in Westfield, New Jersey is nearly empty as supply ships remain blocked by a federal law enacted in 1920.

“This bin is usually 800 tons and it usually lasts me a few storms,” explained Westfield’s Superintendent of Public Works Claude Shaffer. “I’ve got crumbs here.”

“I’ve been trying to get salt since February 3, nothing.” Shaffer said.

According to The New Jersey Department of Transportation, the state used 258,000 tons of rock salt last winter. So far the state’s exceeded 373,000 tons, and the winter isn’t over yet.

The DOT tried to ship urgently needed salt into Newark Harbor, but they were blocked by The Jones Act, a federal maritime law that says vessels cannot transport goods from one American port to another American port unless the ship flies the U. S. flag.

“We had a foreign vessel parked within a few feet of 40,000 tons of salt and the federal government would not give a waiver for that ship to bring the salt from Maine to New Jersey,” explained Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick.

Tuesday Senators Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) sent a joint letter to the Department of Homeland Security asking for assistance in obtaining rock salt shipments.