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Tropical storm Bonnie 2010: Oil spill work on hold as system approaches

As BP works to control the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, local wildlife struggle for survival.

The storm system caused flooding in Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and Haiti before reaching tropical storm strength. Seas already were choppy near shore, with waves up to five feet rocking boats as crews prepared to leave. More of the smaller boats involved in the coastal cleanup were called into port, Coast Guard Rear Adm. Paul Zukunft said.

Only several weeks ago, the prospect of a violent storm hitting the Deepwater site was worrisome. With the well only partially capped, oil and gas were still leaking out in substantial amounts and flowing through makeshift pipes to waiting collection vessels. If a major storm had hit before the containment cap was installed last week, those receiving vessels would have had to evacuate, too, and the full geyser would have returned.

Allen has remained cautious about the stability of the containment cap, giving BP permission to continue with it only day by day. But on Thursday he said that government and BP scientists had succeeded in narrowing down the number of possible problems and had substantially increased his confidence that the cap was holding.

"I have to give a tremendous shout out to [Energy] Secretary [Steven] Chu and the science team for methodically, everyday, twice a day sitting down with the seismic acoustical data, the anomalies that were detected, having a coordinated way to send ROVs out there to rule out the fact that they might be indicative of a well integrity issue." In other words, that the cap was holding and the pressure below appeared to be under control.

The containment cap is a mile under water, deep enough that it will not be seriously effected by a storm.

Also Thursday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced that 26,388 square miles of gulf waters would be reopened to commercial and recreational fishing. The reopening of a third of the overall closed area was announced after consultation with Food and Drug Administration about the safety of eating the fish.

Since mid-June, neither NOAA nor the United States Coast Guard observers flying over the area have seen any oil. Additionally, models show a low risk for future exposure to oil in the area, and fish caught in the area and tested by NOAA have shown no signs of contamination.

"Today's decision is good news for gulf fishermen and American consumers," Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said. "Following the best science for this reopening provides important assurance to the American people that the seafood they buy is safe and protects the gulf seafood brand and the many people who depend on it for their livelihoods."

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