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DNR releases Minnesota buffer map; implementation begins

The map is an overview of the region around Park Rapids, Detroit Lakes, Bemidji and Brainerd

As part of the state’s commitment to protecting clean water, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources this week released the map of public waters and public ditches requiring permanent vegetative buffers or alternative water quality practices.

The buffer map shows landowners and local governments where protective vegetative buffers of 16.5 feet or an average of 50 feet are required, as approved by the Minnesota Legislature in 2015 and revised in 2016. More than 90,000 miles of waters in Minnesota require buffers or alternative water quality practices.

The buffer map is available at

www.mndnr.gov/buffers.

"Vegetative buffers help filter pollutants and sediment out of our waterways," said DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr. "Completing this map is a critical step toward the ultimate goal of protecting one of our most valuable natural resources – clean water."

The project now turns to implementation with these deadlines:

Nov 1, 2017: 50-foot average width, 30-foot minimum width, buffers must be in place on lands adjacent to public waters and identified and mapped on the buffer map.

Nov. 1, 2018: 16.5-foot minimum width buffers must be in place on lands adjacent to public ditches as identified and mapped on the buffer map.

The Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR), soil and water conservation districts, and local governments will work with landowners on any questions about buffers or alternative water quality practices. There will be a series of eight meetings with local government boards and staff to help coordinate the implementation process. 

"We want to thank our partners for helping the DNR produce an accurate map on schedule," said Dave Leuthe, DNR buffer mapping project manager. "Many local buffer ordinances have already gone beyond the minimum state standard established through this process. We applaud the local communities and all landowners who put buffers in place."

Minnesota’s landmark buffer law establishes new perennial vegetation buffers along rivers, streams, lakes, public ditches and some wetlands. Buffers protect water resources by helping filter out phosphorus, nitrogen and sediment. Gov. Mark Dayton championed the buffer initiative legislation in the 2015 and 2016 sessions.

The buffer initiative is a multi-agency effort involving the DNR, BWSR, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) and the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. The DNR is responsible for producing a map of the public waters and public ditches that require permanent vegetation buffers or alternative water quality practices. Studies by the MPCA show that buffers are critical to protecting and restoring water quality and aquatic habitat due to their immediate proximity to water.

More information and answers to specific questions about Minnesota’s buffer mapping project are available at www.mndnr.gov/buffers.

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