Gov hits reverse: No motorized boats allowed under stay-home order

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

Motorized boating is the latest item to be scratched off the list of allowed activities under Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s extended and tightened stay-home order.

Jet skis, motorboats or other comparable watercraft are prohibited, while canoes, sailboats and kayaks are allowed, according to a "Frequently Asked Question" list the state recently updated.

The development comes a week after the Michigan State Police told The Detroit News the order does prohibit such activity, only to have Whitmer’s office correct them hours later to say boating was allowed.

Just last week, the state website said “boating falls within the outdoor activities permitted under the order.”

But the most recent update seems to drill down further and exclude motorized vessels.

The Department of Natural Resources on Friday said the ban on motorized boats was an attempt to "reduce the movement of, and contact among, people" to slow the virus spread.

"The DNR has received many reports about heavy use of boat launches across the state and the subsequent congregation of people at these launches in violation of social distancing requirements, and in a manner that threatens public health," the DNR wrote on its website Friday.

"In addition, people who use motorized watercraft typically need to procure secondary services for their craft, such as parts and gasoline, that could unnecessarily increase contact with others and spread disease."

Fishing still is allowed, but charter fishing isn't, and the DNR emphasized that "long distance travel is prohibited" except for critical purposes. Fishing licenses can be purchased online for the new license year starting April 1. 

All fishing tournaments "that require people to travel or congregate" between Friday and April 30 should be canceled, the DNR said.

DNR boating access sites still are open and do not require a recreation passport. Fish stocking may be delayed, but is not canceled.

Paddlers and sailors must be “part of a single household,” according to the state, and any activities “must be done in a manner consistent with social distancing, and individuals should use only their own equipment to prevent the transmission of the virus through the touching of shared surfaces.”

Boating supplies or services are not “critical infrastructure work,” the order said.

Whitmer’s Thursday order expanded an existing ban on nonessential work and travel outside the home, extending the prohibition through April 30 and cracking down on outdoor activities for which many had asked for lenience.

The new order requires stores to cordon off nonessential sales areas, such as gardening supplies, maintains a prohibition on golf, and shutters landscape and nursery businesses.

Besides nonmotorized boating, just about the only outdoor recreation allowed under the order are walking, hiking, running and biking.

Disgruntlement with the initial order had been growing, but Thursday’s additional restrictions pushed some business owners and Republican lawmakers to say the order implements restrictions that other states are avoiding.