Consider buffer strips as restitution

To the editor:

In the Oct. 31 issue of the Marshall Independent, State Representative Chris Swedzinski expressed the sentiment that complying with Minnesota’s buffer zone law “is a general taking of land.” He added that the state “isn’t really offering anything” as compensation to landowners who install buffer strips.

While taking a small amount of land out of production to install buffer strips will have a slight negative effect on a landowner’s bottom line, it’s important to remember that the buffer strips serve as filters to lessen the damage done to our waters by sediment and by agricultural pollution such as bacteria, fertilizer and chemicals.

The real “taking” here was done by irresponsible landowners who have taken away the public’s ability to safely use some of our state’s waters. According to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s website, about 40 percent of all state waters tested by the MPCA in the last decade are now considered impaired. The problem is even worse in far southwest Minnesota, where the agency reported that no lakes and few streams in the Minnesota portion of the Missouri River Basin met state standards for supporting aquatic life and recreation. Don’t forget that our streams eventually drain into the Mississippi River, which this year has created a record-setting New Jersey-sized “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico.

Where is the public’s compensation for not being able to fish or swim in some of the state’s waters? Where is Louisiana’s compensation for damage done to its fishing industry by upriver polluters?

It’s laughable for those who contribute to the state’s water pollution problems to expect to be compensated for not causing further harm. Rather than being compensated for contributing less pollution, the offending landowners should compensate the public for our impaired waters by complying with the buffer zone law. Consider the buffer strips restitution for taking our state’s water.

Brett Gaul