Governor Dayton made a splash on January 16th with his surprise call for vegetated buffers along Minnesota’s waters. Far less surprising was the news out of Iowa that the Des Moines Water Works decided on January 8 to file a notice of their intent to sue upstream area contributing excess nitrogen to intakes of their drinking water treatment plants. The area includes ten drainage districts in parts of three counties.
POLITICO has a handy daily update of agricultural issues that included this tidbit this morning:
BUFFER ZONE COULD SOLVE IOWA WATER ISSUES: Requiring a 35-foot-wide grass buffer between streams and crop fields in Iowa would put the state considerably closer to meeting its water quality goals, according to a report released today by the Environmental Working Group. In “Iowa’s Low Hanging Fruit,” the group finds that in a study of five agricultural standards in the Hawkeye state, stream buffers took very little land out of production but reduced phosphorus runoff by 18 percent and nitrogen pollution in waterways by 7 percent. Meanwhile, the requirement would take just .05 percent of corn and soybean land out of production in the counties studied.
The piece pulls from information on the Environmental Working Group website (Link: http://bit.ly/16nBdhg ). If you plan on tracking this legislative session’s sudden discussion of buffers, you’ll be well served by knowing the basics about buffers identified in this report. The report made a splash of its own last year. In the ensuing months there have been a number of efforts to explore the nuances of its findings and contrasted them with what they see closer to the ground in their own jurisdictions. The report was only a rough sketch of the complex world of buffer law, but it got the right people talking about the right issues and more counties are approaching non-compliant landowners to create a level playing field for the many rural landowners who are complying.