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Buffer zones along MN waters: How soon should they be required?

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Gov. Mark Dayton said all spring he wants to see buffer zones along Minnesota's lakes, rivers, streams and ditches – an attempt to slow the runoff of harmful farming-related pollutants entering the state's water.

As the legislative sessions winds down, lawmakers look poised to reach a compromise and enact such a plan.

But a deal seemingly struck Sunday had to be reconsidered because of protests over one big sticking point: what year the buffer zones should be implemented by.

The first deal

A compromise reached Sunday in a conference committee (where members from both the House and Senate work to find middle ground) would have required buffers – but they wouldn't have to be implemented until 2020 on public waterways, and until 2022 along drainage ditches, the Session Daily said.

In addition, there was no language in the amendment requiring private landowners to install buffers.

That didn't sit well with Dayton, who according to Forum News Service's Capitol Chatter said, “it is sad they want to give them five to seven more years," before requiring buffers, adding: "What a joke.”

Round 2

So lawmakers began re-hammering out a compromise.

The new proposal, sorted out overnight, would move up the deadline to 2017 for public waters, and to 2018 for the drainage ditches, The Associated Press reports. The buffer zones would be 50 feet wide on average along public waters, but could be as thin as 30 feet in spots, the AP says.

The House and Senate still have to vote on the measure.

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