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Multi-Agency Exercise Tests Oil Spill Readiness

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(Source: CBS4)

(Source: CBS4)

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) — Since Hurricane Andrew ripped through South Florida 20 years ago, hurricane-prone communities amped up preparedness to mitigate damage from the next Andrew.

But has South Florida readied itself for an oil spill disaster like that seen in the Gulf oil spill in spring 2010?

If you think South Florida doesn’t need to worry about such a disaster, think again: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) computer models reveal new oil drilling occurring on Cuba waters positions a potential spill just months away from the Florida Keys.

To test shoreline protection strategies, agencies at all levels teamed up Thursday to test the Tidal Inlet Protection Strategy.

Much like the April oil spill response exercise in the Keys, the Thursday morning exercise involved the U.S. Coast Guard, the Florida Dept. of Environmental Protection, NOAA and other federal, state and local agencies.

Working jointly with Marine Spill Response Corporation and other petroleum industry interests, the agencies deployed 7,500 feet of oil containment boom at Miami’s Virginia Key Beach Park.

The exercise aimed to test the ability to protect Biscayne Bay from offshore oil that could enter through Bear Cut.

Bear Cut was chosen from other inlets in Miami-Dade County because of the complexity from fast currents and its focal point into the environmentally sensitive habitat of Biscayne Bay.

With the large scope of the exercise, some inconveniences were unavoidable: the channel will remain closed to marine traffic through 11 p.m. Thursday.

Visitors were required to wear closed-toed, flat-heeled shoes as they watched the boom deployment from a fenced off area.

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