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Everything you need to know about Minnesota's buffer laws

Everything you need to know about Minnesota's buffer laws

With planting season underway and a new bill recently signed into law by Gov. Dayton that clarifies several items in Minnesota’s new buffer law (which was passed during the 2015 legislative session), the Minnesota Corn Growers Association put together the following Frequently Asked Questions post the buffer law.

To the best of our abilities, we tried to simplify the many complexities of the bill so farmers had an easy-to-understand, yet comprehensive, reference point when asking questions about the buffer law. We also included some resources at the end if you have additional questions.

Here we go:

What are the requirements of the buffer law passed in 2015?
All public waters (rivers, lakes, streams and wetlands) require an average of a 50-foot buffer of perennial vegetation. All public drainage systems require a 16.5-foot buffer. Alternative practices based on Natural Resource & Conservation Service (NRCS) guidelines or approved by your local Board of Soil & Water Resources (BWSR) are allowed for both public waters and public drainage systems, as identified by BWSR.

How long do I have to put in buffers and comply with the law?
On public waters, buffers must be seeded by Nov. 1, 2017. On public drainage systems, the deadline is Nov. 1, 2018. On public drainage systems the buffer is required regardless if the system has undergone the redetermination of benefits process and damages of the public drainage system under drainage law. However compensation provided under drainage law may be used in advance or retroactively to provide compensation for all or part of the buffer strip establishment or alternative riparian water quality practice.

Can you review what the redetermination of benefits process is?
Any activity such as maintenance or improvements to a public drainage system that results in viewers to assess benefits and damages, the ditch authority can order that a permanent strip of perennial vegetation approved by the authority shall be established on each side of the ditch The new buffer law states that redetermination of benefits provisions may be used in advance or retroactively to acquire or provide compensation for all or part of the buffer strip or alternative practice.

Where is the start of the buffer measured from?
For public waters, buffer width is measured from the top or crown of the bank or from the edge of the normal water level if there is not a defined bank. The width of the buffer on a public drainage system must be measured from the top edge of the existing constructed channel.