By Nick Katers
BOSTON, Massachusetts: A bill proposing improved warning systems on Massachusetts beaches was approved by the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture. The bill proposed by Senator Bruce Tarr (R) would allocate funds for a color-coded flag system at state beaches. The system run by the Department of Conservation and Recreation would warn beach-goers about adverse weather conditions and dangerous tides. Senate Bill 409 advances to the Massachusetts Senate Ways and Means Committee for review.
Members of the committee were influenced by the story of Caleigh Harrison, a two-year old girl who drowned off Long Beach in Rockport, Massachusetts on April 19, 2012. Members of the Harrison family were among witnesses who testified during a public hearing before committee members. Caleigh’s uncle, David Harrison, suggested a color-coded flag system based on a similar system he witnessed during a trip to Panama. “The compelling story told by Caleigh’s family moved legislators to action, and is making the difference in getting the bill passed,” Tarr said.
If Senate Bill 409 is passed, Massachusetts would join New Hampshire and New Jersey as the only states in the Northeast with flag systems on public beaches. Flag systems are currently used by Alabama, Florida and Texas due to strong tides in the Gulf of Mexico.