County adopts Minnesota’s buffer ordinance

Published 10:22 pm Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Questions still remain amongst board, farmers

The Freeborn County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday unanimously adopted the state of Minnesota’s buffer ordinance, despite questions from the board and local farmers about the scope of the law.

The buffer law establishes new perennial vegetation buffers of up to 50 feet along lakes, rivers and streams and buffers of 16 1/2 feet along ditches. The standards are meant to help filter out phosphorous, nitrogen and sediment.

Board action came approximately two weeks before the Nov. 1 deadline for implementing buffers on public waters in Minnesota. The deadline for public ditches is Nov. 1, 2018.

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District 1 Commissioner Glen Mathiason said he did not want the board to delay action individuals can take to comply with standards.

“I want to make it as easy for the individuals as possible,” he said.

District 2 Commissioner Dan Belshan asked if there would be compensation for farmers whose land is reduced by the requirements and said he did not think the state had all of its “ducks in a row” in enacting the requirements.

According to the state, the law provides flexibility for landowners to install “alternative practices with equivalent water quality benefits” that are based on a Natural Resources Conservation Service technical guide.

According to the state, buffers are an important conservation practice to keeping waters clean.

Freeborn County farmer Jerry Demmer said though his property will not be affected by the requirement, other properties will have to meet the law.

“We will have to follow the state guidelines set forth by the state,” he said.

Freeborn County was pro-active in implementing a 16 1/2-foot filter strip requirement about 30 years ago, said Demmer, adding farmers will need to meet the requirements under the guidelines.

“We have no alternative,” he said, adding he does not know if the state is going to take land needed to comply with the standard, whether farmers will be compensated for complying or if the state will pay rent on property.

Demmer said the requirements do not apply to him because Freeborn County already implemented the 16.5-foot requirement and the DNR map did not include his property on the 50-foot requirement.

After the meeting, Mathiason said he wished the state would have straightened out kinks in the requirement before adopting it.

“We really don’t have a choice in terms of adopting it,” he said.

Mathiason said Freeborn County plans to incorporate alternative practices set by the state into its ordinance to help landowners affected by the requirement and minimize the restrictiveness of the guidelines.

Mathiason and District 5 Commissioner Mike Lee took issue with landowners having to forfeit land without being compensated.

“I certainly don’t agree with that,” Mathiason said.

Landowners with questions about the requirements can visit

About Sam Wilmes

Sam Wilmes covers crime, courts and government for the Albert Lea Tribune.

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