Red Lake Nation News - Babaamaajimowinan (Telling of news in different places)

BEMIDJI AND BUFFERS MAKING HEADLINES AT THE CAPITOL

 


On April 6, dozens of area residents traveled to St. Paul in order to take part in "Bemidji Day at the Capitol." It's always good to see so many folks from northern Minnesota take time out of their lives to visit state lawmakers and discuss the issues that are important to them.

While they were here, we gave the group an overview of what's happening at the legislature, and talked about transportation funding along with some bonding projects that are important to the Bemidji area. Specifically, we met with the chairs of the House Capital Investment and State Government Finance committees in order to answer questions and give feedback to them about the importance of establishing a veteran's home in Bemidji. My thanks to everyone who traveled to the Capitol and made their voices heard.

This week, the Minnesota House Environment and Natural Resources Policy and Finance Committee approved revisions to last year's buffer law, doing a better job of clarifying its language and intent.

Under an agreement reached by the House, Senate, and Governor Dayton last year, by November of 2017, buffers with an average of 50 feet with a 30 foot minimum must be in place for lands adjacent to public waters. By November of 2018, buffers of 16.5 feet must be installed on all public ditches.

Problems began late last year when it was discovered the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) was misinterpreting the new law and greatly expanding its scope to include private ditches. Eventually, Governor Dayton ordered the DNR to end this practice.

The new language clarifications are supported by both major farm groups in the state. Some of them include codifying the exemption for private ditches and noting that Minnesota may not expand on its current list of eligible public waters, shifting buffer jurisdiction from state to local agencies, and reinforcing the intent that the DNR will conduct the mapping, but the jurisdiction process will be placed in the hands of counties and local watershed districts. If the local governments do not accept jurisdiction, it would default to the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR).

I'm pleased these changes specify more local control and help set the tone for cooperative compliance. I will keep you posted on the status of this bill as it continues making its way through the legislative process.

Finally, with roughly six weeks left in our legislative session, I am hopeful we will soon make bipartisan progress on plans that provide tax relief, address long-term road and bridge funding, and fund reasonable construction needs across the state – such as a veteran's home in Bemidji. The 2015 session was quite bipartisan, and I'm hopeful we can build on that success again this year.

 

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