State By State Advocacy Series – September 2020 Great Lakes & Midwest Recap

The third segment of NMMA’s September state advocacy series features updates from the Great Lakes and Midwest regions. Contact Jill Sims, with questions. 

Access & Infrastructure:

  • In Illinois, the Chicago Harbors in the City of Chicago will close on Saturday October 31, 2020 at 11:59PM. All boats except those with Late Leaver permits must vacate the harbors by this time. Read full notice here.
  • In Ohio, anglers will find upgrades at the all-access fishing pier at Caesar Creek Lake. The pier has been upgraded with underwater structure and light to attract more fish, as well as increase security measures. The project was made possible through a partnership between Whitetails Unlimited (WTU) Caesar Creek Chapter and ODNR division of Wildlife and Parks and Watercraft. The project was funded in part through the Sport Fish Restoration act, which is an excise tax on fishing equipment. Read more here.

Boating Laws:

  • In South Dakota, the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks (GFP) Commission voted to change four rules regarding waters in South Dakota during their September meeting. The commission voted on the following changes:
    • To allow the spearing of gamefish from the Nebraska/South Dakota border at the point where the river becomes entirely in South Dakota, upstream to the Ft. Randall Dam from May 1 – March 31. Statewide, the hours for spearfishing game fish will now end one-half hour after sunset.
    • Canyon and Bismarck Lakes to limit boaters to use of electric motors only.
    • Requirement of safety signage and the marking of open water areas when aquatic aeration systems are being used on waters with open public access, during times of ice cover.
    • Daily trout limit changes from 7 to 5 on Nebraska/South Dakota border waters to align with South Dakota’s inland waters limits.
    • Additionally, the GFP repealed the rule allowing for the creation of Local Boat Registries. Previously, boaters in certain parts of the state who only used their watercraft on specific waters infested with zebra mussels were exempt from decontamination requirements if they stayed within defined boundaries. The department will develop a new approach to decontamination in zebra mussel infested waters in the state. Read more on the recent GFP actions here.
  • In Wyoming, the Game and Fish Department will be closing for 2020 watercraft registrations and preparing for the 2021 season during the months of October and November. Watercraft registrations will resume again on December 1, 2020 at the Game and Fish offices and online. Read more here.

Business Liability: As businesses deal with the ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic, outdated business liability rules have come to the forefront of business protection needs.

  • In Iowa, on June 18 Governor Kim Reynolds signed into law S. 2338. This law states that the premises owners shall not be held civilly liable for COVID-19 exposures or infections absent reckless disregard or actual malice.
  • In Kansas, on June 8 Governor Laura Kelly signed into law H.B. 2016. This law shields businesses from COVID-19 suits as long as they can prove they substantially complied with applicable regulations and guidance. The law is retroactive to March 12 and expires on January 26, 2021.
  • In Michigan, the House of Representatives passed legislation that would provide liability protections to businesses from coronavirus-related lawsuits. The lead bill in the package, HB 6030, was approved on a 57-49 vote. HB 6030 would create a new act, the COVID-19 Response and Reopening Liability Assurance Act, to provide minimum requirements and establish standards for certain liability claims alleging COVID-19 exposure and certain product liability claims. The act would apply retroactively to any claim or cause of action accruing after January 1, 2020. If the legislation passes the Senate, it is expected to be vetoed by Governor Gretchen Whitmer.
  • In Ohio, on September 14 Governor Mike DeWine signed into law H.B. 606, a liability protection bill. HB 606 ensures civil immunity to individuals, schools, health care providers, businesses, and other entities from lawsuits arising from exposure, transmission, or contraction of COVID-19, or any mutation of the virus, as long as they were not showing reckless, intentional, or willful misconduct. The bill’s provisions apply from March 9, 2020 through September 30, 2021.
  • In Wyoming, on May 20, Governor Mark Gordon signed SF 1002 into law. This law shields businesses from COVID-19 suits as long as they have complied with public health emergency instructions or have acted in good faith.

Wake Surfing: Wake surfing issues continue to impact the Great Lakes region.

  • In Minnesota, the University of Minnesota St Anthony Falls Laboratory has begun their study on “Boat Wake Impacts on MN Lakes”. The study had an initial goal of raising $94,000 through crowdfunding, but exceeded the goal to the tune of nearly $125,000. Donations came in from across the country. The study will “measure the height and energy of waves and depth and force of propeller wash generated by wake boats and other large watercraft to better understand and quantify their impacts on lake bottoms shorelines.” Read more here.
  • In Wisconsin, there are several attempts through local ordinances to eliminate or limit wake surfing. NMMA is working in partnership with WSIA, MRAA and local stakeholders to mitigate the threat.