The Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources added a seventh Common Alternative Practice to its original list of options for landowners to comply with the state’s buffer strip law.
The updated guidance list now includes practices for public ditches located in glacial lake plain areas. Public ditches require a 16.5-foot minimum buffer, according to the law.
“These very flat lake plain areas of the state have their own set of challenges. BWSR, landowners and local conservation partners have come together to identify an alternative practice in these unique areas,” says John Jaschke, BWSR executive director. “The buffer law’s flexibility provides options for landowners to accomplish water quality improvement practices that meet the purpose of the law on landscapes where buffers aren’t the best fit.”
BWSR’s guidance addition for public ditches in glacial lake plain areas notes that these sites would be suitable for alternative practices because they are located in a surface runoff area that is relatively flat, and has fully vegetated and stable channels and banks. Surface flow in these areas that directly discharges over the channel bank into the public ditch is minimal and infrequent. Or, if surface water is present, it typically enters the public ditch through open channel concentrated flows.
BWSR introduced its original "six-pack" of Common Alternative Practices in April. Those were:
• Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program
• USDA practice standard filter strip
• Grassed waterway on public waters
• Negative slope on public ditches
• Negative slope on public waters
• Buffer plus conservation tillage
Under Minnesota’s buffer law, landowners can use alternative practices with comparable water quality benefits to buffers. Soil and water conservation districts have the authority to validate these practices and are working with landowners to find the best solutions for their land. BWSR’s role is to provide program guidance and support, and ensure local government consistency.
Alternative practices are not limited to the options in the Common Alternative Practices guidance. Other combinations of practices, based in the Natural Resources Conservation Service field office Technical Guide, can be developed in partnership with SWCDs. In addition, the BWSR board may consider additional alternative practices to provide more options for SWCDs and landowners to develop solutions to fit their land and their needs in the coming months.
With less than six months to go until the November public waters deadline, 64 of Minnesota’s 87 counties are 60% to 100% in compliance with the buffer law.
For more information, including more detailed information on alternative practices and the variety of technical and financial assistance available to help landowners with implementation, visit the BWSR website.