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Renville County's increased buffer offer boosts interest

Tribune file photo Farmers will be seeding buffers along public ditches to meet the state's new law requiring 16.5 feet of perennial vegetation. The Renville County Soil and Water Conservation District saw lots of interest to an increased cost-share offer it recently publicized.

OLIVIA — After finding lackluster interest, the Renville County Soil and Water Conservation District increased the amount of cost-share funds it would offer per acre to assist with installing buffers along public ditches.

It also took to the airwaves to promote the new cost-share rates.

"We were just swamped last week with applicants,'' Holly Hatlewick, Renville County SWCD manager, told the Renville County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday.

Hatlewick was to talk Wednesday to staff with the Minnesota Board and Water and Soil Resources, hoping the state agency can free up an additional $612,000 in clean water money to help Renville County provide cost-share funds to all of those who have applied.

Applicants are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis.

At this point, the county has applications for cost-share funds to install vegetation on approximately 1,900 acres. The county estimates that there are about 3,000 acres of buffers that will be seeded to comply with the new law.

She noted that not all landowners installing buffers are seeking to participate in a cost-share program. The recent campaign to promote the cost-share offer also brought a number of calls from landowners who do not intend to use cost-share funds, but were seeking information, she told the commissioners.

Along with the cost-share funds, the Soil and Water Conservation District office is also hoping to assist landowners by making available a drill for planting the buffers. The 10-foot Great Plains drill can be leased and used to seed either native or non-native grasses, she said.

The Soil and Water Conservation District is also exploring the possibility of working with the county's Public Works Department to see if it would be possible to provide a worker, tractor and the drill to seed buffers along a ditch system for multiple landowners at one time.

Hatlewick said a mass seeding operation could benefit landowners, but comes with some challenges. The landowners still have to prepare the land, and past cropping and chemical practices on different parcels affect when and what types of grasses can be planted.

The county Soil and Water Conservation District increased its cost-share offer from $125 to $225 per acre for non-native and from $200 to $300 per acre for native plantings.

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

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