ST. PAUL – With the goal of providing more clarity to landowners, operators, and government officials regarding Minnesota's vegetative buffer requirements, the Minnesota House of Representatives has approved buffer clarification legislation chief-authored by State Representative Paul Torkelson (R-Hanska).
"This legislation was clearly needed after the Governor's Office misinterpreted the language and attempted to incorporate private ditches into last year's requirements," Torkelson said. "This bipartisan bill focuses solely on buffer clarification and jurisdiction."
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.
Torkelson said some of the revisions include:
·Eliminating problematic "benefitted area" language, and identifying the most recent public water inventory and public ditches that are subjected to buffers.
·Codifying the exemption for private ditches.
·Shifting buffer jurisdiction from state to local agencies. Under the plan, counties and local watershed districts would have jurisdiction. If they decline, the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR) would gain authority.
·Reinforcing that the DNR's only role will be to conduct mapping.
·Eliminating any change from current statute regarding the measurement of ditch buffers.
·Ensuring fair compensation for farmers by compensating for buffers based on property values prior to buffer installation
Torkelson said it will be critical for landowners and operators to double check the DNR's maps when they become available in their county to ensure that any mistakes are quickly corrected.
"It should now be easily understood what is in the public water inventory and what constitutes a public ditch," Torkelson said. "Clean water is in everyone's best interest, but providing fairness to farmers throughout this process was also one of my top concerns."
The buffer clarification bill now heads to Governor Dayton for his signature.