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Conferees agree on ag, environment and natural resources committee report

Rep. Denny McNamara, left, and Sen. David Tomassoni confer before the start of the conference committee on the omnibus environment, natural resources and agriculture policy and finance bill May 16. Photo by Paul Battaglia

The conference committee on the omnibus environment, natural resources, agriculture policy and finance bill met for the first and last time Saturday night and into Sunday morning, agreeing in the early-morning hours to adopt several articles of policy and appropriations to return HF846*/SF1764 to the respective bodies for passage.

The agreement includes a compromise on requirements that buffer strips of vegetation be created along the state’s streams, drainage ditches and rivers where they don’t already exist or meet sufficient standards.

The amendment approved by the committee to add this language would direct counties and municipalities to ensure all public waters in their jurisdiction subject to shoreland management ordinances to have buffers of 50 feet by 2020. It also requires a drainage authority to have buffers installed on all drainage ditches under its jurisdiction by 2022.

However, aside from directing soil and water conservation districts to assist private landowners with installing buffers of no less than 16.5 feet on riparian lands, there is no language in the amendment requiring private landowners to install buffers.

“This was not what the governor was hoping for,” said DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr.

Rep. Dan Fabian (R-Roseau) said that while that may be true, the language was “a step” in the right direction.

The committee also removed language that would have required manufacturers or distributors of children’s products that contain potentially harmful “priority” chemicals to notify the Pollution Control Agency, which would then make that information available to the public.

And an amendment, offered by Sen. John Marty (DFL-Roseville), that would have included language allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain a driver’s license or learner’s permit was defeated on a voice vote. 

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