Buffer law draws a crowd to Kandiyohi County informational meeting
WILLMAR -- More than 200 people are estimated to have filled the lower level meeting room of the Kandiyohi County Health and Human Services building Wednesday to learn how the state's new buffer legislation will affect them.
WILLMAR - More than 200 people are estimated to have filled the lower level meeting room of the Kandiyohi County Health and Human Services building Wednesday to learn how the state’s new buffer legislation will affect them.
Landowners will be responsible for establishing the buffers where they are required. No one should expect the county to pay anyone for their buffers, Loren Engelby, Kandiyohi County public drainage manager, told the audience.
“If you don’t go into one of the conservation programs set up to pay you, then you are on your own,” Engelby said.
Engelby outlined the major requirements of the new legislation, but also cautioned everyone: There remain “lots of unanswered questions.’’
The new legislation will require that landowners install 16.5-foot, or one-rod, buffers of perennial vegetation along public ditches and most private ditches draining to public or county ditches. The total acreage to be affected in Kandiyohi County will not be known until the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources completes maps - due by July 2016 - showing where the buffers will be required.
There are more than 650 miles of open ditches that are public in the county, and just under 300 miles of county tile lines, according to Engelby.
The buffer law requires the buffers on public drainage systems by November 2018.
The law also requires an average 50-foot buffer with 30-foot minimum along public waters by November 2017. It’s not known yet if portions of altered waterways such as Chetomba Creek, Hawk Creek or Shakopee Creek will be considered public waters and subject to the 50-foot requirement, or if they will remain classified as public ditches and the 16.5-foot requirement.
Landowners can receive compensation for installing buffers by enrolling the land in conservation programs, but also must abide by the requirements of the program they use, noted Engelby. In the case of the Conservation Reserve Program, that means installing a buffer 33 feet wide instead of 16.5 feet, for example.
Landowners installing their own buffers can plant alfalfa and harvest them, and use the buffers as field roads.
Landowners are responsible for the costs of installing the buffers. Landowners installing buffers along public ditches could be compensated at a later date if the ditch system goes through the redetermination process, according to Engelby.
Landowners who convert cropland to buffer will want to let their tax assessor know about the change, he added.
Engelby urged landowners to consider the options they have and act in time to meet the deadlines imposed by the legislation. It will not be possible to enroll affected lands in conservation programs once the deadlines are reached.