Friends of Big Sioux River Promise Riparian Buffer Bill in 2017

Folks send us candidates all sorts of mail. Some of that mail is boring, like the “Buy More Robocalls!” flyers and the campaign newsletter on which some Aberdonian scribbled swear words and slander but not his name.

But some of the mail is actually useful. Consider the Big Sioux River Advocate, the July 2016 newsletter of the Friends of the Big Sioux River. FBSR dedicates over half of its newsletter to this year’s (vetoed!) Senate Bill 136, the grassy buffer strips bill, and its sponsor, farmer and retiring Senator Jim Peterson (D-4/Revillo). FBSR knows riparian buffers can play a vital role in achieving their ambitious goal of making the entire Big Sioux River swimmable by 2025. They post this summary of the benefits of the grassy buffer strips SB 136 would have incentivized:

Friends of the Big Sioux River, newsletter, July 2016, p. 3.
Friends of the Big Sioux River, newsletter, July 2016, p. 3.

Remove 50% of ag chemical pollution, catch 75% of eroded sediment—SB 136 would make that happen at no cost to the state or counties in the Big Sioux watershed. FBSR says it will work with allies to bring another riparian buffer bill that addresses Department of Revenue concerns to the 2017 Legislature. They may find an ally in new Agriculture Secretary Mike Jaspers, who said last month that he wants to talk to the Governor about revisiting SB 136 to address soil erosion and benefit agriculture.

The Senate passed SB 136 unanimously and voted with just one dissent to override the Governor’s ill-advised veto. Unfortunately, my opponent in the Senate race, Rep. Al Novstrup, voted twice against SB 136 in the House. I urge District 3 to send me to the Senate to ensure that the 2017 grassy buffer strips bill passes and that farmers along the Big Sioux, the Jim, and all of South Dakota’s waterways are taxed fairly for investing in everybody-wins conservation activities.

10 Responses to Friends of Big Sioux River Promise Riparian Buffer Bill in 2017

  1. Paul Seamans

    The city of Des Moines is suing three Iowa water districts for the nitrates that are ending up in their drinking water. The court date is set for August. If the City of Des Moines prevails then grassy strips along waterways will be just a small part of regulations that the South Dakota legislature will be looking at.

    Senator Peterson had a good idea that was rejected. As I have said before, the days of farmers polluting our water with impunity are coming to an end.

  2. mike from iowa

    Be a good deal for them noxious pheasants that inhabit South Dakota for some god forsaken reason, too.

    Nesting cover, winter habitat, seeds for food-what’s not to like? I know- wingnuts and Big Ag.

  3. By re-classifying that land as non-agricultural, would the income loss to counties be more or less than $14 million a year?

  4. I got the same flyer. I Like the idea of riparian buffers. I will even take it further. I would like to see a Canoe/bike/hiking trail from Watertown all the way down to Sioux City. maintained by various civic groups, and coordinated by the state

  5. El Rayo X, my understanding is there is no revenue loss. Counties levy the same amount, just divide it up differently: farmers restoring grassy buffer strips pay less on those narrow areas, rest of county pays a touch more.

  6. MC, that’s the Knobe-McCart Trail! A trail like that would become a crown jewel of East River tourism and a huge quality-of-life selling point for communities along the Big Sioux. I am totally with you!

  7. John Wrede

    Sadly, buffer strips are only a small part of the major remedy. USDA has been attempting to pay to get this done for nearly 20 years or more and it has learned that voluntary doesn’t work. And seemingly, paying for the practice to help farmers bottom line doesn’t work either. Does anyone actually understand the enormity of this. It starts with every tertiary drainage system in the Big Sioux in at least two other states and the land mass involved is huge. And now competing with this is tile drainage that has the potential to replace all those pollutants into the Big Sioux that are filtered out by the handful of grass waterways and buffer strips. Add to that the continued drainage and filling of wetlands and associated vegetative uplands and one has to conclude that buffer strips alone can not and will not affect water quality in the Big Sioux to any significant degree. If direct payments for grass waterways and buffer strips failed, it is hardly possible for tax breaks to accomplish the same thing. Yes it’s a baby step and a start but it’s a feel good exercise that puts one’s thumb in a hole in the dike while looking heavenward and ignoring the other 25 holes pouring out water. What really stands in the way of good remedy is all the fears of violating fictional landowner rights. In many respects, this is not all that much different in principle than the water ownership and control disputes in Day, Marshall and Robert’s counties over flooded lands. We refuse to acknowledge the reality that all the historical draining and filling of wetlands and water courses to create more tillable ag land has had enormous contemporary consequences that will only get worse as we continue to ignore principle and information that our state legislature recognized and tried to mitigate over 50 years ago.

  8. John, dare we take a mandatory buffer strip approach like Minnesota?

  9. John Wrede

    Cory: Unless it is done in conjunction with the Federal Government who still maintains some regulation of water, we’d be spinning our wheels. I’m going to say some ugly words and the entire Republican and some Democratic infrastructure will erupt in profanity but……….. land use zoning is the only thing that is going to reverse the continuing damage. I’m not that familiar with Minnesota’s rules but if our neighbors felt they had to take that step, obviously USDA incentives and volunteer cooperation failed there as well.
    All we have to do is look back at the history of USDA conservation incentives to understand that there are some private property owners that are good land stewards and will voluntarily take steps to abate contaminants and run off pollution. Their are a quantity of private property owners that don’t want government in their business and won’t lift a finger to protect the public’s water because it might affect their bottom line. They are willing to ignore their negligence thinking that the next generation can more easily afford to clean up their mess. Then we have the rest of the property owners who will take the help and count on the honest reality that USDA/government has all but abandoned their practice compliance checks so it becomes yet another taxpayer hand out. There is an excellent report out now that does a little more than infer that USDA is turning a blind eye to compliance. State government will be no different. If we think that the country assessor is going to go out each year and check to make sure grass waterways and buffer strips haven’t been plowed under and replanted to soybeans, I think we’re kidding ourselves. It’s that republican political pressure to support agricultural enterprise so that it is more profitable for the individual rather than being good for sustainable agriculture and land conservation. There are other things to consider as well…….. As long as we have government sponsored public land grazing and cattle stomping all over in every body of water imaginable from Spring Creek in the Black Hills to the Missouri River and beyond, pollution and eutrophication of the state’s water resources will continue in spite of any effort we make to incentivize or zone production ag land into fractional buffer strips or grass waterways that really aren’t that affective in extraordinary run off events or, in most cases, when we allow producers to graze or hay them. Does that happen????????? Of course it does…… Always has…….. I remember several drought years when state government ordered every piece of state owned land opened to haying and grazing in an attempt to relieve drought stressed producers. One producer even hayed what is called “goose foot” which is poisonous to cattle and when several of his cattle tipped over, he sued. We have to face the reality that ag producers are politically privileged in SD.

  10. Cheap grazing leases—another government subsidy of one favored industry.