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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Paul Torkelson (R)

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Thursday, March 9, 2017

ST. PAUL – In order to provide more clarity to Minnesota’s controversial buffer law, State Representative Paul Torkelson (R-Hanska) is sponsoring legislation that would make a number of common sense changes to existing statute.


“The goal is to add conditions where farmers and landowners and counties can deal with buffer regulations in a proper way,” Toreklson said.


Under an agreement reached by the House, Senate, and Governor Dayton last year, by November of 2017 buffers with an average of 50 feet with a 30 foot minimum must be in place for lands on the public waters inventory. By November of 2018, buffers of 16.5 feet must be installed on all public ditches.


One important provision of Torkelson’s bill would make both the public waters and public ditch deadline November 1, 2018. His proposal also sets up a fund for counties to help them pay for the costs of taking over buffer jurisdiction from the State. Under the current law, counties and local watershed districts could take jurisdiction. If they decline, the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR) would maintain authority.


“We feel counties need the time and the resources to determine if they’re going to take jurisdiction of the buffers, and I hope that they do,” Torkelson said.


Finally, my legislation would analyze the public waters inventory and potentially divide it into two sections: one which includes waters that have a shore land designation and require a 50 foot buffer, the other includes waters that do not have a shore land designation - mostly ditches – which would start with a 16.5 foot basis for a buffer.


His proposals are currently being debated in the Minnesota House Environment and Natural Resources Policy and Finance Committee.