Governor Dayton Backs Off Buffers for Private Ditches


Gov. Mark Dayton’s aggressive plans to boost water quality by requiring buffer strips along Minnesota waterways took a step back Friday when the governor acknowledged he’s ordered state conservation officials to stop mapping “private ditches.”

Dayton’s made water quality and buffer strips a key part of his intended legacy in his last years in office. The Legislature last year backed a scaled down effort to require the buffers. While there was consensus on the plan for public waterways, farmers and farm groups remained concerned about the law’s intentions when it came to ditches on private land.

The new law requires strips on ditches in areas that would benefit public waterways, but farm groups say private ditches were never meant to be part of the deal.

On Friday, Dayton said he pulled back on the private ditch efforts and ordered the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to stop mapping them after Republicans threatened to torpedo water quality projects Dayton’s seeking in a public works spending bill in the coming session.