The Free Press, Mankato, MN


May 14, 2014

Our View: Counties failing on river cleanup

Why it matters: A report shows many counties along the Minnesota River are not enforcing agriculture runoff rules

A detailed report by a national environmental group shows hundreds of miles of streams and rivers without the required environmental barriers to protect against agricultural runoff into the Minnesota River and others around the state.

It’s a troubling report at the very least and should be of great concern to all Minnesotans. For years, the state has required that streams and ditches draining into the state’s waterways including the Minnesota River include buffer strips of grass or other cover that will filter the runoff.

A comprehensive look at the watershed via satellite imagery shows hundreds of miles of streams and ditches out of compliance. The Environmental Working Group report shows four-fifths of cropland next to streams and rivers didn’t have at least some of the required protections for runoff, according to a story on the report in the Star Tribune.

The counties along those rivers are charged with enforcing these rules that in most cases require a 50-foot buffer strip of grasses to help filter phosphorous and nitrogen. But many have not done much and dozens have not done enough.

As state and federal government take a stronger stand on stopping runoff and pollution, all counties who have farmers and landowners out of compliance would do well to begin enforcing the law.

Federal and state regulations and fines will only increase.

There’s a growing body of research showing agricultural runoff is a prime contributor to the pollution of the Minnesota and Mississippi rivers and is a significant contributor to creating the so called “Dead Zone” in the Gulf of Mexico.

It is also backfilling Lake Pepin with sediment.

The Free Press detailed the problems of sedimentation and runoff in the Minnesota River in an in-depth series in 2011 called “From Amber Waves to Muddy Waters.”

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