The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Special Report: Amber Waves to Muddy Waters

December 6, 2011

Special report preview and podcast: From Amber Waves to Muddy Waters

The environmental threat of the Minnesota River


He’s also amazed so little has been accomplished when the research is clear on most of the causes.

Minnesota River sediment is filling Lake Pepin at a pace 10-times the natural rate.

“About five years ago the neighborhood people at the mouth of Lake Pepin noticed places you used to be able to jet ski across or take your boat across to Wisconsin — you can’t get there anymore,” says McKay.


Day 3: Tuesday, Dec. 6.

Pollution solutions stymied by money shortages or politics

The state regulations are clear: If you have land in agricultural use along a stream, river or lake, you need to have at least a 50-foot grass buffer strip along the river bank or edge of the lake to reduce erosion, runoff and pollution.

But enforcement of the rule has been nearly nonexistent. Many counties say they simply don’t have the staff or resources to enforce the rules and opposition from landowners can make it an issue elected county commissioners would rather avoid.

Story: Some along the river make efforts to follow the 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.”

But she sought advice and found local officials easy to work with. She’s one of the few landowners complying with new buffer strip rules.

Story: Counties have the power to enforce laws, but many don’t

When it comes to enforcing the law requiring a 50-foot buffer along streams, rivers and lakes, it falls largely to counties to do the policing.

Virtually none have, but some are starting to.

The reasons for inaction, say county officials, have been a lack of staff and expertise, no easy way to find offenders and no real pressure to crack down.

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Special Report: Amber Waves to Muddy Waters