The “B” word … buffers

There has been a lot of confusion over possible changes and scenarios related to the Minnesota Buffer Law in the last legislative session. So here’s how the law sits today. Landowners with a public water (as determined by the DNR – must install a 50-foot average width buffer of perennial vegetation. Landowners with a public ditch (county ditches) must install a 16.5-foot average width buffer (this requirement was already a law although not often enforced).
Although the deadlines to become compliant with the law have not changed, a provision was added for landowners with public waters to request a waiver-extension in which they specify the method they will be using to become compliant (compliance plan). If authorized, the waiver would extend the deadline from Nov. 1, 2017, to Nov. 1, 2018. The landowner is required to implement the compliance plan as stated by the 2018 deadline or penalty will be assessed. The existing deadline for public ditches remains Nov. 1, 2018.
Landowners that have signed an application for state or federal (EQIP, CRP) cost share to install a practice that will bring them into compliance with the buffer law are also granted an extension until Nov. 1, 2018. This is due to the time required to go through the federal program process.
There have also been “alternative practices” developed that are accepted as compliant. These apply to situations where existing conditions or changes other than a 50-foot/16.5-inch buffer make sense and meet the goal of filtering runoff water. A full description of the alternative practices can be found at
There is cost share available through state or federal programs to help landowners implement buffers. Landowners are not required to participate in these programs; they may implement a buffer that meets the requirements on their own. However, landowners may access technical assistance in determining if they are compliant, what they need to do, staking out the buffer, and explaining cost share options through the Chisago Soil and Water Conservation District. We didn’t create the law; we are here to help you through it!
If you choose to install a buffer on your own, please contact the SWCD so we can mark you as compliant. For more information or to request assistance, contact the Chisago SWCD at 651-674-2333 or stop in the office at 38814 Third Ave., North Branch.

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