DNR provides buffer mapping project details

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is providing a timeline and other details about its production of maps for the state’s new law requiring vegetative buffers around bodies of water. The information is available at the DNR’s buffer law Web page.

“We understand people have questions about the buffer initiative,” said Dave Leuthe, DNR project manager. “This information explains the process the DNR will use for the mapping project, the timeline in which maps will be developed, and opportunities for local governments and the public to engage in the process.”

Gov. Mark Dayton’s landmark buffer initiative was signed into law earlier this year. The law will establish new perennial vegetation buffers of up to 50 feet along rivers, streams and ditches to help filter out phosphorus, nitrogen and sediment.

The DNR is responsible for producing maps of public waters and ditch systems that require buffers under the new law. Local governments will provide information on ditches, which the DNR will integrate with information on public waters to develop preliminary buffer maps. The DNR is scheduled to produce final maps by July 2016, using a four-phase approach:

  • Phase I – This fall, the DNR will use existing digital data to identify public waters that require a buffer (50-foot average width) and provide the information to local governments for review.
  • Phase II – Beginning this fall and continuing through winter, the DNR will coordinate with counties and watershed districts to transfer local information on ditches, within the benefited areas of public drainage systems, into digital data. This will be used by the DNR to help identify ditches that require a one-rod (16.5-foot) buffer.
  • Phase III – In late winter 2016, the DNR will use the combined public water and ditch system data to produce preliminary buffer maps. Local governments such as cities, townships and soil and water conservation districts, will review the maps, take input from landowners, and provide comments to the DNR.
  • Phase IV – In summer 2016, the DNR will deliver integrated buffer maps to the Board of Water and Soil Resources, local soil and water conservation districts, and other local governments. The Board of Water and Soil Resources is responsible for the implementation process.

There will be public engagement opportunities when the preliminary maps are available. The maps will help landowners identify whether they need to create a buffer and, if so, whether they need a 16.5-foot or 50-foot average buffer width.

Local soil and water conservation districts will work directly with landowners and help them use the maps to create the right size buffer, or help the landowner select an alternative water quality practice in lieu of a buffer.

Go to the buffer page to learn more about how the DNR is producing maps for the governor’s buffer initiative.