Framework for Alternative Practices under the Minnesota Buffer Law
Framework for Alternative Practices under the Minnesota Buffer Law

Location:  Mower County, Minnesota
Client:  Minnesota Soybean Research and Promotion Council


Since 2016, landowners worked hard to determine how to comply with Minnesota’s new Buffer Law, which requires landowners to have up to 50-foot buffers along watercourses or other alternative practices to protect public water resources. The Minnesota Soybean Research and Promotion Council (MSRPC) teamed up with Houston Engineering, Inc. (HEI) to create a framework that determines if an alternative practice is a viable option for compliance under the Buffer Law.

The Project

HEI led an effort to develop a framework for getting alternative practices approved. Developing this framework required HEI to guide and facilitate discussions with policy makers, state agency leadership, state agency staff, landowners, and last but certainly not least, local governments like the Mower Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD). HEI was successful in engaging and guiding the policy and implementation discussion around alternative practices at all of these levels, eventually gaining acceptance of the MSRPC's alternatives framework as a method that can be used to evaluate alternative practices.

The culmination of these efforts was working directly with Mower SWCD and willing landowners—the Gebherdt family—to get one of the first ever approved alternative practices under the Buffer Law.

This was a prime example of where HEI integrated information from multiple sources to take desktop tools and data to a boots-on-the-ground decision. HEI partnered with the Mower SWCD to evaluate the conservation practices already on a land parcel owned by the Gebhardts and successfully showed that these conservation practices were more than sufficient for compliance with the Buffer Law.

This success story resulted in a consistent and repeatable framework from which soil and water conservation districts across the state can evaluate alternative practices under the Buffer Law.

HEI created a template for alternative practices as a checklist to help landowners demonstrate their compliance with buffer laws.