House OKs ditch mowing moratorium extension

ST. PAUL — Legislation that makes a moratorium on new rules to mow or hay trunk highway right of ways is now in the hands of Gov. Mark Dayton.

The Minnesota House on Tuesday approved the Senate version of legislation Rep. Chris Swedzinski, R-Ghent, authored on ditch mowing. The bill makes the moratorium effective until April 30.

“With deadlines and quick timing of this session, we need to move forward with another one-year moratorium so that the families, and also the department, and the rest of rural Minnesota can digest and actually move forward policy that better reflects the actions that are happening on the ground in rural Minnesota. We need this moratorium and we look forward to the governor’s signature upon it,” Swedzinski said in a press release Tuesday.

“This is a complex issue and we need to be sure any decisions we make will be the best for the long haul without the state further alienating property owners in Greater Minnesota. The state is talking about altering the way some families have managed their land for multiple generations and any solution must respect those people.”

According to Swedzinski, the issue traces back to 2016, when the Minnesota Department of Transportation indicated it planned to change its statewide permitting standards for mowing and baling in ditches along Minnesota’s state roadways. Property owners expressed widespread concerns over the proposed changes and Swedzinski successfully authored a bill in 2017 placing a moratorium on new mowing rules.

That original moratorium expired at the end of April. Swedzinski said more time is needed for legislators and the public to study and respond to a March report the Minnesota Department of Transportation produced on stakeholder feedback. Swedzinski’s bill halts any rule changes for another year.