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Beltrami County Commissioners set public hearing on buffer ordinance

BEMIDJI -- The public will have a chance to weigh in on a new buffer law ordinance for Beltrami County.

On Tuesday, the Beltrami County Board of Commissioners decided to schedule a hearing for Jan. 16 after they were given a presentation by Beltrami County Environmental Services Director Brent Rud. During his summary, Rud explained that the ordinance is related to action the commissioners took in June, which included electing to receive county program aid from the state to administer new buffer laws passed by the Legislature.

The state buffer law was initially approved in 2015 and amended by the Legislature in 2016 and 2017. The legislation established new perennial vegetation buffers of 50 feet for parcels abutting public water and 16.5 feet for parcels abutting public ditches to help filter out phosphorus, nitrogen and sediment.

Part of the requirements of administering the law is the adoption of a county-wide ordinance that meets the minimum requirements established by the state Board of Water and Soil Resources for enforcing the law. The ordinance does not create any new requirements or standards to follow, though. Instead, the ordinance refers to the buffer law statutes and includes the process for determining compliance and enforcement if a lawmaker chooses not to comply.

The law took effect on Nov. 1 for the parcels near public water and will take effect for land near public ditches on Nov. 1, 2018. Once the law was passed, counties had the option of administering the rules themselves and receive state aid, or let the state government handle the matter.

By opting to administer, Beltrami County will receive $60,000 in its first year and $80,000 in the second year to enforce the law.

After Rud’s presentation, District 5 Commissioner Jim Lucachick said he still had reservations about the law itself.

“It’s an agenda. It didn’t come from the people, it came from a special interest organization,” Lucachick said. “That’s what I have a problem with, it didn’t come from constituency, a concern of the general public.”

“This is an attempt to enforce existing laws, a lot of this wasn’t creating new laws,” District 2 Commissioner Reed Olson said during the discussion. “And, we need to make sure our water is clean. We know that farm runoff is going in our waters… We know we have to do something about it. So, I think this is just ensuring that we have water quality. It’s probably something decades overdue.”

The public hearing on the buffer law ordinance is set for 5 p.m., Tuesday, Jan. 16, at the Beltrami County Administration Building, 701 Minnesota Ave. NW, in Bemidji.

Matthew Liedke

Matthew Liedke is the city, county and state government reporter for the Bemidji Pioneer. He also covers business, politics and financial news.

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