On June 13, 2015, Governor Mark Dayton of Minnesota signed all special session bills passed by the legislature, including the Agriculture, Environment, and Natural Resources Finance Bill (SF 5). Section 79 (see pg. 138) of the bill mandates all designated public waterways to have riparian buffers to protect water resources.
Under the new law, buffers for designated public waterways are required to be on average 50-foot width, with a 30-foot minimum. The implementation of buffers on designated public waterways must be completed by November 2017 and public ditches, which must have 16½-foot buffers, completed by November 2018. The obligation to determine which streams, headwaters, and ditches require buffers will fall on the state’s 90 county soil and water conservation districts.
According to a document on the Minnesota Governor’s website, this legislation was one of Dayton’s top priorities and will help to protect Minnesota’s water resources. The Bill has received criticism from environmental groups. Environmentalists are stating the law has not gone far enough to protect public water ways. Steve Morse, Executive Director of Minnesota Environmental Partnership, stated, “We in the environmental community are extremely disappointed in the revised bill released by Legislature today … With the exception of a modest improvement on water quality with more enforcement of vegetative buffers, this bill is absolutely a step backwards for Minnesota’s environment.”
Written by Katharine Richter - Research Assistant
June 16, 2015