Buffer law revisited

Dahms: bill

cleans things up

By Fritz Busch

Staff Writer

ST. PAUL – A pair of Minnesota Senate and House bills revisiting the buffer law passed last year are likely to pass in both places this year, according to District 16 Sen. Gary Dahms (R-Redwood Falls).

Since its passage, the law has created controversy across the state, especially in rural Minnesota. The new bills would make seven changes to the buffer law including giving local water management authorities flexibility in updating their plans.

Other buffer law changes include:

Exempting drainage ditches from buffer requirements when the ditch is part of a plan by the drainage authority to install buffers by Dec. 31, 2025.

Allowing counties and watershed districts to enforce buffer requirements with local processes.

Specifying that the only money that may be withheld from local governments by the state for lack of buffer law implementation is money from the Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR) to implement the buffer law.

“We heard the bill (Senate File 2503) on the agricultural policy, jobs and rural development committee last Wednesday. The changes were adopted and the bill was sent to the Senate Environment and Energy Committee,” Dahms said. “It hit a lot of major issues we have to clarify. The bill has three more committee stops in the Senate before it goes to the floor. Rep. (Paul) Torkelson (R-Hanska) is carrying a similar bill in the House.”

Dahms said he is confident the bills will move forward. “It shows private ditches are not included in the buffer strip program and concerns about penalties,” he added. “We still have to work out he appeals process. Fines are worked out. There is a lot of interest and concern about things put in play by the law that weren’t intentions of the original bill.”

For more information, visit www.senate.leg.state.mn.us/departments/scr/billsumm/

Fritz Busch can be e-mailed at fbusch@nujournal.com.