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Bridge dispute to be settled soon

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Jim Abernethy, a diver from North Palm Beach who owns Jim Abernethy's Scuba Adventures, feels there should be no fishing from the bridge, and allow divers to use the waters under the bridge at all times. (WPEC)

Dr. Julia Botel, Riviera Beach City Councilwoman, District 4 is vowing to settle a dispute between fishermen and divers who both want to use the same bridge.

The bridge is on Blue Heron Boulevard on the west side of Singer Island.

Dr. Botel won re-election Tuesday. She says she will meet with two representatives of the fishing community, two representatives of the diving community, someone from Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and members of Riviera Beach City staff to arrive at a plan that everyone can agree on.

She says fishermen have used the bridge for many years, and it’s a popular place to fish.

Scuba divers also like the spot, saying that the water beneath the bridge is rich in marine life.

Jeff Nelson, a dive instructor with nearly 30 years diving experience, says a handful of fishermen are deliberately trying to hook divers, by putting a fishing line in the water with a hook that has no bait on it.

He feels perhaps the best solution is to let divers have the bridge for 2 hours per day, during high tide, when underwater visibility is at its best. He says there should be no fishing allowed from the bridge during that time, when divers are in the water. He says fishing could be permitted from the bridge for the remaining 22 hours each day.

Jim Abernethy, a diver from North Palm Beach who owns Jim Abernethy's Scuba Adventures, feels there should be no fishing from the bridge, and allow divers to use the waters under the bridge at all times.

"Why not give this one world-class diving destination to the divers? That seems like a no-brainer if we truly want to protect our environment," he said.

Adrian Taylor, a Riviera Beach resident who has been fishing on the bridge for many years, feels the two sides have to come up with some compromise.

“I love fishing on this bridge. It’s very important. It’s where we all can come together as a melting pot and see our differences and still realize that we’re the same,” Taylor said.

The dispute recently attracted a lot of attention when the Florida Department of Transportation put "no fishing" signs on the bridge, and then took them down last month.

A spokesperson for Dr. Botel said she was unavailable for an interview, but said he would provide a written statement with some possible ways to compromise so that people who fish and divers can still use the bridge. We are waiting for that response.



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