Landowners cooperating with SWCD as it works with them on buffer law

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Round one of the Minnesota buffer law is wrapping up as the Swift County Soil & Water Conservation District now works with landowners to implement phase two.

State law required buffers of at least 30 feet wide, and an average of 50 feet wide, to be installed along the state’s public streams, river, lakes, and wetlands by Nov. 1. Starting Nov. 1, 2018, 16.5-foot buffers must be installed on public ditches.

These buffers are intended to help filter out phosphorus, nitrogen and sediment that run off the land.

Last June the county board agreed to be the enforcement authority for the state buffer law allowing property owners to work with someone local rather than a state enforcement officer.

By agreeing to do the enforcement, the county is receiving $141,114 from the state for its expenses in 2017 and another $176,392 for 2018.

While the county is the enforcement entity, it is the Swift County Soil & Water Conservation District (SWCD) that is working with landowners on the buffer plans.

The SWCD is working with nearly 1,600 parcels for both public ditches and public waters, including public lands such as Waterfowl Production Areas and Wildlife Management Areas.

At the county board’s March 20 meeting, the SWCD’s Andy Albertsen told commissioners they will be performing field checks this spring and summer to follow up with parcels that had the 2017 deadline to ensure that the necessary amount of buffer was seeded.

At this point, nearly 100 percent of the parcels required to be in compliance by Nov. 17, 2017, had agreed to have buffers in place.

In response to questions from the Monitor-News, Albertson said he expects the remaining parcels that are to be in compliance to conform as the one-year waivers some landowners were given expire and they have to have their buffers in place

Approximately 270 parcels may still have to add buffer to comply with the public ditches law, but many other parcels already have the required 16.5 feet. The SWCD recently mailed letters to landowners owning land adjacent to a public ditch that may have to add more buffer prior to November 1, 2018, to notify them of current options and to offer technical assistance, Albertson said.

There are currently no waivers or extensions for public ditches. At this time the deadline remains Nov. 1, 2018, with no exceptions....


What is a Buffer?

A buffer, also known as a riparian filter strip, is vegetated land adjacent to a stream, river, lake or wetland. Buffers help filter out phosphorus, nitrogen, and sediment, and are an important conservation practice for helping keep water clean.

Studies by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency show that buffers are critical to protecting and restoring water quality and healthy aquatic life, natural stream functions and aquatic habitat due to their immediate proximity to the water.

Contact Andy Albertsen for more information about buffers and local requirements:  320-842-7201 Ext. 3.

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