There was little support last week on the Environment Committee for a bill that would require boats to drastically reduce their speeds on Candlewood Lake after dark.

Robert Klee, commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Protection, said the agency is neutral on the proposal, but agreed with committee members opposed to the bill that some watercraft would become harder to handle at the overnight speed limit of 15 miles per hour, down from the current 25 mph.

“Going from 25 to 15 is really going to do too much,” said Rep. Jay M. Case, R-Winsted, a committee member who lives on a lake.

Case stressed that many boats need to operate at a minimum of 25 mph.

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Accidents

Over the last 10 years, there have been 51 accidents on Candlewood Lake between 6 p.m. and 7 a.m.

Alcohol was involved in at least three accidents.

12 people were injured.

Eight involved two vessels colliding; one watercraft hit a fixed object.

Three involved speed of between 21 and 40 mph.

Five occurred at speeds below 10 mph.

Five were at speeds between 11 and 20 mph.

Two were water skier mishaps.

* Source: Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection

“It’s at 50 to 70 miles per hour where you get the problems,” he said.

He called for more stringent overnight speed enforcement on the 11-mile-long, 2-mile-wide lake spanning parts of Danbury, New Milford, New Fairfield, Sherman and Brookfield.

State Sen. Clark Chapin, R-New Milford, ranking member of the committee whose district includes the lake, said he had not heard support for the bill from the Candlewood Lake Authority.

The Candlewood Lake Authority this week asked residents in Danbury, New Milford, New Fairfield, Sherman and Brookfield to fill out a short, three-question survey about a proposal to drop the overnight speed limit.

Patrick E. Callahan, of New Fairfield, a former 10-year chairman of the authority, said in committee testimony that the overnight lake speed limit should be 6 mph.

“When operating at 25 or 30 mph, the reaction time for a boat to avoid a collision at night is no more than a split second,” Callahan wrote to the committee. “If alcohol or drug use is added to that equation, a collision would be unavoidable as we have seen with serious accidents on the lake in past years.”

Klee said that there is no evidence that lowering the overnight speed to 15 mph would improve boater safety. The committee has until March 18 to vote on the legislation.

Klee’s staff told the committee that over the last 10 years, only six accidents have occurred on the lake between 11 p.m. and sunrise. But one of the accidents had two fatalities along with three injuries, and another resulted in three injuries. Both of those accidents involved alcohol.

kdixon@ctpost.com;