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S.F. No. 1515 - Wetland Conservation Act (WCA) Amendments
 
Author: Senator John Marty
 
Prepared By: Greg Knopff, Senate Analyst (651/296-9399)
 
Date: March 9, 2015



 

Section 1 [Wetland stakeholder coordination] directs the Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR) to establish a wetland work group, similar to the drainage work group.  The group will provide forum for developing policy recommendations to improve WCA.

Section 2 [Identification of high priority areas for wetland replacement] directs BWSR to identify high priority areas for wetland replacement.  BWSR must consult with the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), the Department of Agriculture, and local governments.  The criteria for designating these areas include wetland functions, the historic loss and abundance of wetlands, and current state and local plans, and studies that identify watershed needs.  The designation of high priority areas is exempt from rulemaking requirements and become effective 30 days after being published in the State Register.  Local governments may identify high priority areas and projects for wetland replacement that can be provided to the BWSR to consider in designating high priority areas for wetland replacement.

Section 3 [Wetland preservation areas] is a technical conforming change.  Wetland preservation areas allow counties to offer reduced property taxes to landowners to protect wetlands on their property.

Section 4 [In-lieu fee program] defines “in-lieu fee program” for the purposes of WCA.  An “in-lieu fee program” will allow wetland replacement through the payment of money to the BWSR or a BWSR-approved sponsor to develop wetland replacement.

Section 5 [Wetland replacement] broadens wetland replacement options to include all actions of at least equal public value.  This section also expands current restrictions on wetland replacement options for banking to require them for all wetland replacement.

Section 6 [Wetland replacement siting] removes specific criteria for wetland replacement siting due to public transportation projects, and clarifies that for wetland banking projects the priority starts with projects in the same county or wetland banking area of the impacted wetland.  This section also removes language relating to the NE MN inventory report; and directs the BWSR to develop wetland replacement ratios and wetland ban service area priorities.

Section 7 [WCA rules] authorizes BWSR to develop rules for an in-lieu fee program within the wetland banking program that must conform to the federal wetland mitigation rules.

Section 8 [Interagency team] directs BWSR to develop an interagency team to identify and evaluate wetland replacement sites.  The team will consist of the Technical Evaluation Panel and representatives from specific state and federal agencies.

Section 9 [Wetland replacement completion] authorizes wetland values to be replaced after draining or filling of wetland when financial assurance is provided or under the in-lieu fee program.  This section also allows BWSR to acquire fee title to land for replacement wetlands and to establish payment rates for in-lieu fee program payments; and establishes an in-lieu fee program account.

Section 10 [Local government decisions] eliminates local approval of wetland banking plans and replaces it with local approval of sequencing.

Section 11 [Wetland replacement credits] eliminates the requirement that wetland replacement must be completed prior to draining or filling a wetland because of conflict with the in-lieu fee program; and allows additional replacement options related to aquatic resources in a greater than 80 percent area.

Section 12 [Fees] authorizes BWSR to charge fees to pay the costs associated with establishing conservation easements or other long-term protection on wetland replacement sites.

Section 13 [Greater that 80 percent areas; wetland credit] provides that other important natural areas in the greater than 80 percent area can receive wetland replacement credit.  These areas include riparian buffers, habitat corridors, and certain watershed areas.

Section 14 [Report] directs the BWSR, in cooperation with the DNR, to report by March 15, 2016, to the committees with jurisdiction over environment and natural resources on the proposals to implement high priority areas for wetland replacement, in-lieu fee replacement, wetland replacement siting, and actions eligible for credit.

Section 15 [Revisor instruction] instructs the Revisor of the Statutes to renumber the definition section for Minnesota Statutes, chapter 103G, to retain alphabetical order.

 

 

 
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