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Dayton backs off buffer strips for private ditches

ST. PAUL -- Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton has ceded ground to farm interests, Republicans and some Democrats over a contentious aspect of his plan to require vegetative buffer strips to help protect water from agricultural runoff and erosion.Private...

ST. PAUL - Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton has ceded ground to farm interests, Republicans and some Democrats over a contentious aspect of his plan to require vegetative buffer strips to help protect water from agricultural runoff and erosion.
Privately owned drainage ditches are off the table, Dayton announced Friday morning following a meeting with Republican leaders Thursday.
The decision is a reversal of Dayton’s steadfast insistence that a law he signed last year requiring buffers along waterways included private ditches in some instances. However, Republican leaders who supported the law have maintained that private ditches were never on the table, and the administration’s attempt to include them was out of line, if not illegal.
The law mandates strips of year-round rooted vegetation, generally between 16 and 50 feet, along the vast majority of waters in the state, from lakes to rivers to publicly managed drainage ditches. It’s effect on privately owned ditches - a category never defined in state law - has been in dispute for months.
Dayton said Friday he made the decision “with great reluctance” and only after “threats” to some of his spending proposals in the upcoming legislative session. “I will not put at risk the water quality improvements in my bonding proposal and other critical bonding measures over this dispute,” Dayton said in a statement Friday.
House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, flatly denied that Republicans threatened Dayton’s clean-water spending proposals, suggesting the notion might have come from individual lawmakers speaking out of turn.
“That is not true … I don’t operate that way,” Daudt told reporters Friday. “We don’t operate that way. I know that tensions probably got high in the conversations, and there probably were some conversations between members and others that may reflect that, but it’s certainly not something that would have ever happened, and I as speaker would not have allowed my caucus (to do that).”

Related Topics: AGRICULTURE
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