UPDATE 1-Obama looks at restoring Gulf Coast over long term
(Updates with Obama memorandum, changes dateline, previous HOUSTON)
WASHINGTON, June 30 (Reuters) - President Barack Obama on Wednesday formally directed officials to draw up a long-term economic and environmental plan to help the Gulf Coast region get back on its feet after the worst oil spill in U.S. history.
Crude gushing from BP PLc's (BP.L)(BP.N) ruptured oil well in the Gulf of Mexico has seeped into ecologically fragile marshes and wetlands and soiled stretches of coastline in four states, imperiling lucrative fishing and tourist industries.
In a memorandum to government department heads, Obama said the plan to be drawn up by the Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus would assess the post-spill needs of affected communities and propose ways of restoring "the unique beauty and bounty of this region."
"In addition to fighting the spill, conducting environmental cleanup, and ensuring such a crisis does not happen again, we must help the Gulf Coast and its people recover from this tragedy," Obama said in the memorandum.
"The oil spill represents just the latest blow to an area that has already suffered significant hardship," he said, referring to the devastation wrought by hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005.
Many Gulf coast residents have criticized the federal response to the disaster so far as ineffective and too slow.
In a televised address on the oil spill on June 15, Obama pledged to go "beyond responding to the crisis of the moment" and said he was directing Mabus to develop a long-term restoration plan for the region as soon as possible.
The plan will be designed with input from states, local communities, tribes, fishermen, businesses and conservationists.
Senior U.S. government officials meanwhile will meet with Obama on Thursday to review the spill situation and plans going forward, the Coast Guard said in a statement.
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