By Jean Meiners
Technician, Root River SWCD
The Buffer Law that was signed into law by Governor Dayton in June 2015 was amended on April 25, 2016, and further amended by legislation signed by Governor Dayton on May 30, 2017. The amendments enacted in 2017 clarify the application of the buffer requirement to public waters, provides additional statutory authority for alternative practices, addressed concerns over the potential spread of invasive species, including Palmer Amaranth, established a Riparian Protection Aid Program to fund local government buffer law enforcement and implementation, and allowed landowners to be granted a compliance waiver until July 1, 2018. As of July 2019, Houston County parcels adjacent to Minnesota Public Waters are 95-100% compliant with the Buffer Law.
A buffer, also known as a riparian filter strip, is vegetated land adjacent to public waters (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. Minnesota Buffer Law requires perennial vegetative buffers of up to 50 feet along designated lakes, rivers, and streams. You can view the DNR Public Waters map at http://arcgis.dnr.state.mn.us/gis/buffersviewer/.
Beginning in 2019 Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCDs) were mandated to check 1/3 of all public water buffers each year along with 25-50 random spot checks. You can view the Monitoring Plan on the Root River SWCD website, http://www.co.houston.mn.us/RRSWCD/RRSWCD_Buffer_Compliance.aspx.
This summer I reviewed parcels and did find buffers that had been eroded because of flooding or high water. Per the Buffer Law, buffers must remain at their original measurement. If you have lost buffer because of flooding or high water please call the Root River SWCD and I will come and re-measure your buffer.
If you have further questions regarding the Buffer Law please give me a call at the office, 507-724-5261 ext. 3.