There is bipartisan support for a new measure to improve the water quality of our rivers and streams while creating thousands of acres of important wildlife habitat.

A bill introduced this week (House File 1543/Senate File 1537) would strengthen existing rules requiring buffer strips along all of the state’s rivers, streams and drainage ditches. Buffer strips are recognized as a common sense and effective approach to pollution prevention. Current law calls for 50 foot buffer strips along some waterways that run through agricultural areas, but many waterways are exempt, and the confusing regulations are unevenly enforced.

Why is this so important? This legislation comes on the heels of a recently released study by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency which found that of the 93 streams sections it studied in southwest Minnesota, only three were capable of supporting aquatic life, and only one, a small part of the Ocheyedan River near Worthington, was deemed safe for aquatic recreation such as swimming.

The new bill, which has the support of Governor Dayton and a number of republicans in the legislature, would make the 50 foot buffer strip of perennial vegetation the simple standard along all public waterways that flow through a majority of the growing season. It would provide more water protection and tools for more effective enforcement.

In addition to protecting rivers and streams, the legislation would provide flood protection and add valuable habitat for birds, pollinators and other wildlife.

While there will no doubt be more polarized fights as this year’s legislative session winds down, it is good to see that common ground could be reached between the Governor and the Republican-controlled House on an initiative that would provide great benefit to all Minnesotans.


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