Outdoor advocates push for waterway buffer zone implementation

- It's been a slow moving debate for years now. Waterway buffer zones, required under a state law passed in 2015, are now possibly years from implementation.

A bill making its way through the Capitol would give landowners more time to comply, but buffer zone supporters say action is already long overdue.

"If you are going to protect this water, you need to protect that water too," said Mark Henry, Dakota County Agriculture Society president.

A country road in Dakota County shows a near perfect comparison. On one side of 270th Street West a buffer zone lines the banks of the North Chubb Creek, but on the other side it does not.

Farmer Kenneth Betzold installed his buffer zone in the 1990's. In recent years, Dakota County began requiring buffer zones along their DNR waterways.

"That's what we make our money on is the dirt in our farms and if it's all washed away, that's money down the drain," said Betzold.

In 2015, state legislation was passed requiring 50-foot buffer zones along most public waterways across the state, but some believe it's all happening too fast.

A new bill aims to delay implementation possibly for years.

"The legislature is going towards delay, it is also changing the designation on some of the buffers where things that had not needed to be buffered would need to be in the future," said Rep. Rick Hansen, (DFL) South St. Paul.

Supporters believe the time has come for action with more chemicals being washed in and soil carried away.

"We have water problems in the state of Minnesota and we have folks who want to solve those," said Hansen.

While the fight continues at the Capitol, action will be left to those who own the land, hoping to preserve natural resources that support a way of life.

"If everybody does a little why, if nobody does anything that's a problem," said Betzold.

For more on buffer zones and related legislation at the Capitol, click here.

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