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Cass County Board: No new waterways in buffer plan for now

WALKER—Cass County Board voted to table action Tuesday, Oct. 2, on a proposal to include "other water courses" in its water plan.

Currently, only public waters are identified in the plan and thereby subject to state buffer protection laws.

If the board votes to include other water courses, it would add smaller ponds and streams on both public and private land and make them subject to the same state laws that govern land around public waters.

The Cass Soil and Water Conservation District Board voted Sept. 6 on a split 3-2 vote to recommend the county board approve adding other water courses.

Before the county board again addresses the issue, the county board liaisons to the soil and water board, commissioners Jeff Peterson and Neal Gaalswyk, will meet with the soil and water board to learn more about the issues that board discussed before taking its split vote.

Cass County has 80 miles of shoreland considered to be on other water courses, 55 percent of which are on public land and 45 percent of which are on private land.

There are no known areas of Cass County where people are not currently in compliance with the state buffer law, Administrator Joshua Stevenson said, but if a non-compliant property were found, having other water courses included in the county's water plan would qualify a property owner to seek grant funding to make their property compliant.

John Ringle, Cass environmental services director, said he does not have the staff to go throughout the county to look for non-compliant properties on other water courses. Adding other water courses would not be designed to enforce compliance.

Gaalswyk suggested maybe properties on other water courses could be added on a case-by-case basis to the county water plan at a future time as a private landowner wanted to seek grant money for a specific project.

Peterson said the county board should look at options available before voting whether to add other water courses to the county water plan.

He made a motion to talk further with Cass Soil and Water Conservation District Board members before considering the issue. That motion was passed unanimously by commissioners.