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Lyon Co. to move forward on buffer law enforcement

MARSHALL — It’s gotten to the point where Lyon County will have to enforce an ordinance requiring buffer strips to be planted along ditches and bodies of water.

However, out of over 3,000 parcels of land in Lyon County, the list of non-compliant land owners is down to 100 or fewer, said Lyon County Soil and Water Conservation District Administrator John Biren.

Biren updated Lyon County Commissioners on the buffer enforcement issue on Tuesday. Last spring, the county SWCD sent out “last chance” letters to 300 landowners who were out of compliance with the buffer ordinance. Now, he said, the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources was asking the county to move ahead with enforcement. “It’s time that we move to that next step,” Biren said.

No action from the board would be needed, he said. “I just wanted to let you know where we’re at.”

The county’s buffer ordinance comes from a controversial state law aimed at keeping runoff out of Minnesota’s water. Landowners were required to plant strips of vegetation around drainage ditches and public waters. The deadline for landowners to plant buffer strips or put alternative water quality measures in place was in November 2017 for public waters and November 2018 for ditches.

Biren said the buffer ordinance affects a total of 3,400 parcels of land in Lyon County. Out of that total, 100 or fewer parcels remain out of compliance. Under the county’s ordinance, landowners who are not in compliance will receive a corrective action notice. If they don’t comply with the corrective action notice, the county can proceed with either criminal charges or an administrative penalty order.

There is no administrative penalty for 11 months after a corrective order is issued.

“In essence, they have one more chance to get things done,” Biren said. After that, the penalty is $100 per month for each parcel of land not in compliance. After six months, the penalty goes up to $300 per parcel.

Of the 100 parcels left out of compliance in Lyon County, there are some that could have seeded buffer strips last fall, Biren said.

“We’re down to the challenging ones,” he said.

Biren said the Lyon County SWCD has purchased a grass seeder and offers a cost-sharing assistance program to help landowners plant the needed buffer strips.

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