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Fox Waterway Agency seeks clarification about 2-person boating restriction

A McHenry County Sheriffs Department boat and crew patrol along the Fox River on May 14, 2019, in McHenry.
A McHenry County Sheriffs Department boat and crew patrol along the Fox River on May 14, 2019, in McHenry.

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Officials with the Fox Waterway Agency are seeking clarification after Gov. JB Pritzker restricted the number of passengers allowed on board when boating season opens Friday.

In a statement issued Monday, FWA Executive Director Joseph Keller said his agency already had proactive measures in place when the governor announced the restriction at a news briefing Saturday.

The FWA took proactive measures at its Wednesday night board meeting, when directors agreed boaters could not tie together boats and other recreational equipment, and ruled that boats must stay a minimum 10 feet apart.

“With regard to the governor’s follow-up in the same press conference that no more than two people can be on a boat together regardless of being from the same immediate family or not, more clarity is needed due to the safety measures already imposed by the FWA, the local jurisdiction,” Keller wrote.

Pritzker went on to say at his briefing Saturday, that boat capacity would be limited to two people per boat, regardless whether they were related or living in the same household.

Boating is a popular summer activity for residents with access to the water of the Chain o' Lakes State Park area. The park borders Grass, Marie and Nippersink Lakes, and the Fox River, which connects seven additional lakes: Bluff, Fox, Pistakee, Channel, Petite, Catherine and Redhead.

The FWA said it was particularly concerned after hearing that families on the waterway might have received warnings over the weekend about the number of people allowed on their boats at one time, according to Monday's statement.

"Our agency is working closely with elected officials, area governments, businesses, law enforcement and we’ll continue to advocate for your right to safely quarantine with your family in your home or boat along with supporting safe ways for users and businesses throughout the waterway to function during these unprecedented times," Keller wrote.

The McHenry County Sheriff’s Office is similarly awaiting further guidance and is in communication with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources regarding boating on the Fox River, McHenry County Sheriff's Sgt. Aimee Knop said.

The Lake County Sheriff's Office also is working alongside agencies such as the Lake County State's Attorney's Office and Illinois Department of Natural Resources to determine how officers should enforce social distancing during the extended stay-at-home order, spokesman Chris Covelli said.

Police hope to have the matter sorted before Pritzker's order takes effect Friday, Covelli said.

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