Drainage

 
 

MCEA has been an active member of the Drainage Work Group,which is staffed by the Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR). That group is heavily tilted toward pro-drainage interests, and often MCEA is the sole environmental voice in the discussions. To date, MCEA has been successful in fending off proposed legislation that would reduce the need for environmental impacts to be considered in making drainage decisions.

Over the past year or so, MCEA has participated actively in preparing an update of BWSR’s Drainage Manual, especially on new chapters on environmental best management practices and the options local drainage authorities have to include environmental safeguards when authorizing new drainage projects.

Currently, MCEA is also focusing on the new riparian buffer requirements for drainage ditches. The ditch law has required one-rod, or 16.5-foot buffers on public ditches, but only after a “redetermination of benefits,” which happens only occasionally. The new 2015 law requires one-rod buffers on all ditches in areas benefited by drainage systems. That includes private ditches, although that has generated new opposition to the buffer law and may be a legislative issue in 2016.

Speaking up for Citizen's Rights

Bill HF 1021 was proposed during the 2012-2013 legislative session. It would have exempted minor ditch repairs from certain environmental civil actions. A bill like this could conceivably have huge repercussions on the environment and allowable citizen response.

MCEA executive director, Scott Strand, testified against this bill when it was heard in the House Environmental Policy Committee. MCEA gave three strong reasons to oppose:

1. The bill was an attempt to roll back the Minnesota Environmental Rights Act (MERA), which was adopted in 1971 and has proven to be a critical tool to allow citizens access to the courts to stop pollution, impairment, or destruction of Minnesota’s natural resources.

2. The bill would have weakened wetland protection. 90% of the wetlands in the Red River Valley have already been lost because of drainage, which has resulted in poorer flood control, more water pollution, and enormous losses in wildlife habitat. This bill would have stifled the ability of the Wetlands Conservation Act (WCA) to stop drainage projects that damage wetlands. The bill’s proponents claimed that this would just exempt small projects, but small projects (a culvert for example) can do great damage. Lots of small projects together can have dramatic cumulative impacts.

3. The bill was an end run around the stakeholder processes already in place to address these kinds of issues. For example, a stakeholder group known as the Drainage Work Group meets routinely to discuss best management practices when it comes to drainage issues and how they affect agricultural interests as well as environmental interests. MCEA participates in this forum with other groups like the DNR, the MPCA, BWSR, the Department of Agriculture, the University of Minnesota, and others.

Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy
26 East Exchange Street, Suite 206
St. Paul, MN 55101 | (651) 223 - 5969

Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy
26 East Exchange Street, Suite 206
St. Paul, MN 55101 | (651) 223 - 5969


Copyright (c) 2016 Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy
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