The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Special Report: Amber Waves to Muddy Waters

December 12, 2011

Day 3: Landowner made changes to comply with law

When Julee Streit got the letter and aerial photo from Blue Earth County showing a small portion of her prop­erty out of compliance with buffer-strip rules, she admits to a bit of anxiety.

“I was surprised. I’d never heard of the law.”

She contacted the Blue Earth County Soil and Water Conservation District, whose staff came out, explained the rules and marked off two pieces of land — totaling 0.16 acres — that needed to be taken out of crop produc­tion and planted into grass. “

The Soil and Water people were very easy to work with. They walked me through it. I never felt threatened about it,” said Streit, who with her husband owns an 80-acre parcel near the border of southern Blue Earth County. The land under till is rented by a neighboring farmer.

“ They said ( the law’s) been around a long time, but I never heard of it.

They’re just starting to enforce it.”

The law requires a 50foot buffer strip along all bodies of waters, streams and rivers. Blue Earth County, using aerial imagery to identify land out of compliance, is one of just a few counties beginning to pursue compliance. ( See related story.) Streit’s little piece of land needing to be put into a buffer runs along Rice Creek, which comes out of a lake in Faribault County and eventually empties into the Maple River in Blue Earth County.

She is checking to see if the land can be enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program, but in the meantime plans to simply seed it in with a grass mixture suggested by the SWCD.

She’s also talked to her renter, who will now be getting a little less land to farm. “ He’s a real good renter, but if he wants to redo the rent contract, he can.”

Streit is philosophical about finding herself errant of the rules.

“ The law’s the law. You can’t tiptoe around it.”

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Special Report: Amber Waves to Muddy Waters