During the 2017 Minnesota legislature session, a decision was made to add two provisions to the existing buffers rule, as those whose land falls under the 2015 mandate near the deadline to have their buffers implemented.

With the Nov. 1, 2017 deadline looming for those who have land surrounding public waters, the legislature granted an extension for those landowners, but getting that extension is not a guarantee.

“You have to submit a request for the extension,” said Marilyn Bernhardson, Redwood County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) administrator.

Bernhardson said there has to be some justification for the extension, adding the SWCD has been given the authority to accept or reject requests. The extension provision gives landowners until July 1, 2018 to have the buffers in place on land surrounding public waters.

The extension does not apply to the private ditches provision of the buffers rule.

That deadline remains Nov. 1, 2018. 

The second provision added by the state legislature was the inclusion of $5 million statewide in cost-share dollars to install the buffers.

According to Bernhardson, the funds are being distributed to each county based on the number of miles of ditches in the county, with Redwood County looking to receive approximately $75,000 in funds.

Applications for funding for the cost-share dollars are available in the SWCD office.

Bernhardson said there are some stipulations for receiving cost-share dollars for the buffer implementation.

“The work has to be on more than half an acre of land,” she said, adding any land currently in the ditch redetermination process is not eligible for the cost-share funding.

Bernhardson said the funding allocated to the county should be able to cover the costs to complete the buffers work, adding the rate of the cost-share program is $50 per acre for seed bed prep and seeding. That allocation does increase to $100 for those who opt to plant legumes and $200 for those who plant native vegetation.

Bernhardson said if the funding is not spent in the county it could be given to another county that is in need of dollars, and so she encouraged those who are interested to contact SWCD for additional information.

As of earlier this week, Bernhardson said the local SWCD office had received one application for cost-share dollars with another eight or nine expressing some interest.

There are still plenty of questions regarding the buffer rule in the state, said Bernhardson, as was evident at a recent meeting held to talk about the new provisions. More than 50 individuals were in attendance.

Bernhardson said the buffer law approved in 2015 is not really a new provision, as the state approved a buffer requirement on all private ditches in 1978. That drainage law required all ditches to have a one rod buffer (16.5 feet) when the ditch had its benefits redetermined.

It was in the 1980s when the public waters buffer rule was enacted. What the buffer law of 2015 did was bring the two together under one provision and speed up the process.

“The two programs are now under one umbrella,” said Bernhardson, adding she recognizes there are people who are against the state buffer rule.

However, she knows in general people realize that it is time to implement this buffer law, because it is the right thing to do.

Photo courtesy of the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources