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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Paul Torkelson (R)

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Thursday, March 24, 2016

ST. PAUL – In an effort to eliminate continued confusion surrounding Minnesota's new vegetative buffer requirements, State Representative Paul Torkelson (R-Hanska) is authoring legislation that will provide clarity to landowners, operators, and government officials.


"We need to make buffer language extremely concise," Torkelson said. "When questions that should be answered are left open to government interpretation, dangerous things can happen as was proven last year."


Under an agreement reached by the House, Senate, and Governor Dayton last year, by November of 2017, buffers with an average of 50 feet with a 30 foot minimum must be in place for lands adjacent to public waters. By November of 2018, buffers of 16.5 feet must be installed on all public ditches.


Months later it was discovered the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) was misinterpreting the new law and greatly expanding its scope to include private ditches. Following a meeting with Governor Dayton where Torkelson expressed his concerns, the governor ordered the DNR to stand down.


Torkelson said some of the revisions include codifying the exemption for private ditches and noting that Minnesota may not expand on its current list of eligible public waters, shifting buffer jurisdiction from state to local agencies, and reinforcing the intent that the DNR will conduct the mapping, but the jurisdiction process will be placed in the hands of counties and local watershed districts. He added that if the local governments do not accept jurisdiction, it would default to the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR).


"We want everyone to understand what waters will be subject to law and remove all future guesswork," Torkelson said. "I will continue working with farmers and other ag and commodity groups to develop a bipartisan plan that works and keeps this buffer law on the right track."