Boaters using a critical Key West channel are being asked to use extra caution this week, as dive teams inspect the Fleming Key Bridge that spans it.
"Boaters should always use caution in this area, as it is narrow and the currents run strong," said city spokeswoman Alyson Crean. "But on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday mariners are being asked to observe minimal wake to ensure the divers' safety.
The bridge links Key West to Navy property on Fleming Key, and the channel is used by recreational boats traveling from the Garrison Bight area to Key West Harbor and points beyond.
Fleming Key includes an Army Special Forces underwater training center and other military facilities. The road to the property is on restricted Navy property.
Rick Spencer of Spencer's Boatyard at Garrison Bight recalls work being done a little over a year ago on the bridge, requiring that it be a no-wake zone.
"They put signs out and people got the idea," said Spencer.
He and other local mariners describe the channel under the bridge as an extremely important boating route.
"If we didn't have that channel there you would have to go all the way out to Fleming Key and come around on the other side," Spencer said. "It is a main artery for charter boats."
The bridge work being done involves sewer lines that run under the bridge to a treatment center on the Navy property.
The upkeep, said Crean, is the responsibility of the city.
"These divers will be doing an underwater assessment," she said. "And the contractor, CH2M Hill, will come back to the city with recommendations."