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One mysterious development was that the pressure readings were not rising as high as expected.

Allen said late Friday that two possible reasons were being debated by scientists: The reservoir that is the source of the oil could be running lower three months into the spill. Or there could be an undiscovered leak somewhere down in the well. Allen ordered further study but remained confident.

“This is generally good news,” he said. But he cautioned, “We need to be careful not to do any harm or create a situation that cannot be reversed.”

Even if the cap passes the test, more uncertainties lie ahead: Where will the oil already spilled go? How long will it take to clean up the coast? What will happen to the region’s fishermen? And will life on the Gulf Coast ever be the same again?

There was no end in sight to the cleanup in the water and on shore. Somewhere between 94 million and 184 million gallons have spilled into the Gulf, according to government estimates.

Large sections of the Gulf Coast have been closed to fishing and shellfish harvesting. Many fishermen have been hired out by BP to do cleanup work.

While commercial fishing is still widely shut down, Louisiana reopened more than 80 percent of its waters for recreational fishing this week. On Saturday, anglers were out enjoying their restored freedom.

“It’s a blessing,” said Brittany Lawson, 22, a college student from River Ridge, La., as she fished off a pier with her boyfriend’s family on Grand Isle. “I just hope it’s not short-lived. I hope that the cleanup’s really serious and that … The cap holds and everything.”


Weber reported from Houston. Associated Press Writers Allen Breed, Vicki Smith and Jay Reeves contributed to this report.