The Huntington Town Board unanimously approved a measure Wednesday allowing the town harbormaster discretion to set a temporary 5-mph speed limit during aquatic events in town waters.
Local waters play host to a number of events, including fundraising swims and kayak races, an annual music festival and Asharoken Village's annual July Fourth fireworks display. Town officials decided to look at safe boating measures after three children died July Fourth when the 34-foot boat they were aboard capsized following a fireworks display in Oyster Bay Harbor.
The accident happened after the boat, and dozens of others at the event, created dangerous conditions while attempting to leave simultaneously to avoid an approaching storm.
"This helps promote safe boating," said town board member Mark Cuthbertson, sponsor of the resolution approved at the board meeting Wednesday afternoon. "It gives us flexibility with enforcement when there are large groups of boats together to slow them down and give law enforcement another tool to combat and avoid unsafe boating conditions."
Last month the board sought and gained approval of a special resolution to set a temporary 5-mph speed limit for a 1-mile radius around the Huntington lighthouse during its yearly music festival to help control crowds.
The new law allows the harbormaster to decide whether to implement a temporary speed limit, without having to go through the town board.
"It makes it easier administratively," said Harry Ackerman, the town's senior harbormaster. "The town board meets once a month, so if a permit comes in late, we're behind the curve. This allows the harbormaster's office to just go ahead and set the reduced speed limit."
The speed limit, usually 40 mph, will be enforced by the town harbormaster and Suffolk police, Cuthbertson said.