In the St. Paul Pioneer Press, outdoors writer Dave Orrick reports in Dayton backs off buffer strips for private ditches:
Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton has ceded ground to farm interests and Republicans over a contentious aspect of his plan to require vegetative buffer strips to help protect water from agricultural runoff.
Privately owned drainage ditches are off the table, Dayon announced Friday morning.
This is more than just a Friday news dump, in a state fixated on the presidential caucus just across the Iowa border. By suspending the mapping project--which is in the statute--the governor has caved into those who believe that private landowners have no responsibility for prevention in protecting water quality.
It's the ultimate dump, period.
When combined with drinking water quality projects in the bonding bill that pay the cost of removing nitrates from drinking water, those whose practices pollute surface and groundwater are essentially being told: don't change, the public will pay for the damage to water (a public resource) that your business inflicts.
Here's the press release:
Statement from Governor Dayton on Water Quality Buffer Law
The following is a statement from Governor Mark Dayton.
“After meeting yesterday afternoon with House Republican leaders, I have, with great reluctance, instructed the Department of Natural Resources to stop its mapping of so-called ‘private ditches’ under last year’s buffer legislation. The Republican legislators insisted that they did not intend those ditches to be included in the scope of the legislation, even though its buffering requirements would not take effect until November 2018.
“Threats have been reported to me that DNR and BWSR’s bonding requests – which are urgently needed to address the state’s serious water quality and infrastructure challenges – would not be considered by House leadership, if private ditches were not retroactively exempted from the new buffer requirement. I will not put at risk the water quality improvements in my bonding proposal and other critical bonding measures over this dispute.
“I am deeply disappointed by this, because we should require all Minnesotans to take responsibility for the quality of the water that they pass on to their fellow citizens. I thought that we had achieved a modest agreement in the last legislative session about the urgent need to improve the quality of Minnesota’s waters by limiting their pollution from runoffs from private and public ditches. I consider this fierce opposition by the House Republican leadership, as evidence that we are a very long ways from bipartisan agreements even on the severity of our state’s water quality problems, much less on the need to take serious steps to improve it.
“I will not cease my efforts to impress upon all legislators and all Minnesotans the hard facts about the overall deterioration of our state’s water quality, and what we must do to reverse it.”
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Photo: A stream. Minnesotans love our water. Just kidding.