Sure, spring starts tomorrow, but here in the tri-states, folks know they had better not put away the snow shovels just yet. Remember Monday? When wet, heavy snow fell all day? Yes, it happens in March. And even in April. And the temperatures certainly dip low enough for that melted snow on the sidewalk to turn into a thin sheen of ice.

Again, tri-state-area residents know the drill. Throw down some salt to keep melting that ice.

What local residents might not know is that the salt we toss on driveways, sidewalks and roads is actually raising the saline level in our waterways.

Research done by University of Dubuque students shows sodium chloride levels growing in the Bee Branch and Catfish creeks.

From November through early February, levels hovered above 200 parts per million in the Bee Branch. When water salinity reaches 230 parts per million over a sustained period of time, the water is considered toxic to freshwater organisms. At 250 parts per million, the water begins to taste salty.

Recent data indicate that when the city of Dubuque experienced its first snowmelt at the end of February, chloride levels shot up to nearly 600 parts per million at multiple sites in the Bee Branch. Students found that 18 of 20 samples from the North Fork of Catfish Creek exceeded the threshold of chronic toxicity — an average of 263 parts per million.

The City of Dubuque is exploring ways to reduce the amount of salt put down on roads. But local residents have a role to play as well. Use just the salt you need, or better yet, turn to an alternative. Like a heart patient looking at a dinner plate, don’t dump on the salt; a little goes a long way, and too much can be dangerous.

Local residents can add their voices to a request by the Dubuque Community School District to make life and learning easier for one of Dubuque’s most underserved minority groups.

The district is seeking the public’s help in lobbying Microsoft to add the Marshallese language to the tech giant’s online Translator tool. A forum devoted to the effort is found online at https://bit.ly/3qxRB7q.

Local school officials seek the addition because there are no readily available services that address the language gap for newcomers from the Marshall Islands.

The Marshallese population in Dubuque and nationwide has grown in recent years. With an estimated 800 Marshallese in Dubuque, there is a large number of Marshallese students in the school district receiving English language learner services. A tool such as Microsoft Translator could help bridge the language barrier.

Here’s a chance for Big Tech to help our local community, if it is made aware of the need. Add your comment to the forum to give this effort momentum.

The acquisition by Dubuque County of different tracts of land near Bernard will serve as a catalyst for some exciting improvements elevating the opportunity for more outdoor activities.

One effort by the Dubuque County Conservation Department would significantly improve access to one of the county’s newest parks — Bowstring Wildlife Management Area.

The new parcels will allow better access to Lytle Creek, which would open up the area to kayaking. Additionally, the change would allow for other access points to the area beyond the namesake bowstring bridge, which is reaching the end of its usefulness but will remain as a historic structure in the area.

Another development also near Bernard involves the transference of 100 acres of farmland off McCarthy Lane to be turned into a wildlife preserve over the next few years. Willed to the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation by Robert McCarthy, the land will be converted to prairie and opened to the public, in keeping with his wishes.

The last year has brought a new appreciation for the amazing outdoor amenities in and around Dubuque County as more and more people have explored the trails and waterways of the area during the pandemic. It’s great to see that trend embraced with efforts seeking ways to bring even more people out into nature and our beautiful local habitats.

The coming weeks and months will allow for more opportunities for folks to gather with friends and families. And exploring scenic byways remains a wonderful pastime for tri-state residents young and old alike.

Editorials reflect the consensus of the Telegraph Herald Editorial Board.

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