Group to county: Enforce laws, improve water qualityA group dedicated to restoring Lake Pepin wants Goodhue County officials to do a better job protecting area lakes, streams and rivers.
By: Jen Cullen, The Republican Eagle
A group dedicated to restoring Lake Pepin wants Goodhue County officials to do a better job protecting area lakes, streams and rivers.
Members of the Lake Pepin Legacy Alliance approached commissioners earlier this month asking for more strict enforcement of the county's law requiring 50-foot buffers around bodies of water.
"We need to educate people, let them know what the statute is, let them know what the rules are," said Mike McKay, Lake Pepin Legacy Alliance executive director.
The county implemented a voluntary shoreland buffer initiative program several years ago to help protect and maintain water quality.
McKay said that effort — led by one Soil and Water Conservation District employee — needs to be ramped up and that county staff need to make water quality a bigger priority.
In Goodhue County there are 276 acres being cultivated within buffer areas, according to a Cannon River Watershed Partnership study.
"I think if we're reasonable, if we give people time to change their practices, we'll get a pretty reasonable response," Commissioner Dan Rechtzigel said. "Water affects everything. We need to make sure we're not polluting it and I don't think anybody wants to."
Fed up with farmers ignoring the law, an Olmsted County man has filed a complaint with county officials there to help the Zumbro River, which also flows through Goodhue County.
McKay does not want to be forced into similar action. He said he hopes Goodhue County officials begin enforcing the law more strictly on their own.
"Let's be proactive, let's get in front of it," McKay said. "We're not here with a hammer."
Mike Wozniak, county planner and zoning administrator, told commissioners this month that ordinance enforcement could be done with existing staff and resources.
"Enforcing these buffer requirements is something I think we can readily do," he said.
Commissioner Jim Bryant praised efforts made over the past few years to improve water quality. He said finding non-compliant acres in such a large agricultural county is difficult.
McKay urged commissioners and staff to use recently published data compiled by the Cannon River Watershed Partnership and the Whitewater River Watershed Project.
The Shoreland Mapping Project uses geographic information systems and aerial photos to map different land uses within southeastern Minnesota's public water shoreland.
"Now you can use a rifle instead of a shotgun," McKay said.