Counties try local approach to resolving runoff fight

Published 9:14 am Friday, May 22, 2015

FERGUS FALLS — As Minnesota moves toward tougher enforcement of buffer strips intended to keep farm runoff from fouling streams and lakes, Otter Tail and other counties are showing how a less confrontational approach can work.

When Gov. Mark Dayton recently pushed for tougher state enforcement, farm groups pushed back, calling his plan unworkable. But in Otter Tail County, officials are taking an analytical approach and reaching out to landowners with customized guidance on how to meet the local ordinance, which also calls for the buffer strips.

So far, 40 percent of landowners have responded to the county’s letters telling them their shoreland needs buffers.

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Tim Koehler, a senior programs adviser for the state Board of Water and Soil Resources, said actions taken in Blue Earth, Dakota, Dodge, Grant, Olmsted, and Otter Tail counties are good examples of how voluntary approaches are inching enforcement to 100 percent compliance without legal action.