U.S. setting up Miami base to monitor oil

(MIAMI HERALD)   With an enormous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico edging toward Florida, the federal government is setting up a base of operations in downtown Miami to oversee a state crisis response.

Nearly 40 representatives from an alphabet soup of federal and state entities — the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Florida Department of Environmental Protection and National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, to name a few — will operate within a few days from the 15th floor of a towering office building on Brickell Bay Drive.

Also on board: at least one representative from BP.

On Wednesday, Gov. Charlie Crist toured the new office — dubbed the Florida Peninsula Incident Command Post. Crist told reporters during a news conference that “the teamwork that’s being employed is essential,” and said he felt “frustration, anger, despair, but resilience” in witnessing the first images of oil in Pensacola.

Miami’s command post will be overseen locally by U.S. Coast Guard Capt. Drew Pearson. The local post will be set up as a “command and control mechanism” for all of Florida’s coastal counties except for the ones along the Panhandle, said Coast Guard Lt. Commander Matt Moorlag. The Panhandle is covered by the incident command post in Mobile, Ala.

The Miami office is one of four branches or “subposts,” Moorlag said, with similar functions. Other branches are in Houma, La., and Houston.

“We will be working here until it’s no longer necessary,” Moorlag said.

Moorlag said Miami was chosen for the command center because it’s in a central location in relation to the west coast of Florida, the Keys and Florida’s east coast to Jacksonville and slightly north. “Also,” he said, “the senior leadership for the Coast Guard in Florida is here.”

When asked about the threat to local shores, Moorlag talked of the Sentry program that he said will give officials “a minimum of 48 hours notice” of any oil that gets into the loop current and heads toward South Florida.


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