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New program encourages shoreland rule compliance

Otter Tail County will soon be working with lakeshore property owners to ensure they’re in compliance with state and county shoreland rules.

The county board of commissioners has approved a new three-phase “buffer” program to identify problem areas, help landowners get into compliance, and monitor their progress.

The program also includes a plan to implement vegetative buffers along county ditches.

Darren Newville, manager of the East Otter Tail Soil and Water Conservation District, and Brad Mergens, manager of the West Otter Tail Soil and Water Conservation District, gave commissioners a run-down of the program at their regular meeting last Tuesday.

The three-phase process will include:

-Identifying areas of concern and creating a database, running from 2014 to 2016. Letters will inform landowners about programs to assist them in order to be in compliance.

-Contacting landowners a second time, between 2017 and 2019. A fact sheet will be developed regarding the success of the program and ways to access programs to assist landowners.

-Updating the databases, from 2020 to 2022. Final letters to landowners will highlight the successes of the first two phases. This will be the final option for landowners to voluntarily comply with the ordinances.

In addition, the soil and water conservation districts will work with the county ditch inspector to implement buffers along county ditches. Benefits of vegetative buffers include the following:

-Water quality; filtering out pollutants and sediments, making use of deep-rooted plants;

-Soil conservation; using buffer strips to slow runoff, trapping sediment and reducing erosion;

-Lakeshore stabilization; native vegetation has dense and deep root systems that help stabilize the soil. Root systems make banks more resistant to erosion; and

-Habitat enhancement; buffers provide a source of food and cover for many wildlife species, allowing for connecting corridors for wildlife and providing shaded environment. Buffers along streams help moderate water temperatures, which improves conditions for fish species.

Board Chairman Wayne Johnson said the approved buffer program will help ensure protection of resources.

The motion passed unanimously.