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Gulf oil spill: Obama tours Gulf Coast beach

May 28, 2010 | 11:13 am

President Obama toured a Gulf Coast beach Friday morning, assessing the coastal effects of offshore oil drilling and catching a glimpse of wildlife imperiled by the spill.

Standing before an array of oil rigs off the shore of Fourchon Beach, La., Obama said he'd seen a couple of dolphins a football field away from the shore, animals that could be harmed when the spill washes ashore. But efforts to disperse the oil are going full strength, he said.

"A day like today is actually ideal for in situ burning and skimming," Obama said. "It's calm, which means that a lot of boats are out there right now, and they're in a position where they can help prevent it from getting close to shore."

Accompanying him was Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, who told reporters that officials attribute small tar balls on the beach to BP. The Lafourche Parish president, also on the tour, acknowledged that tar balls are common along the beaches.

But, said president Charlotte Randolph, there aren't usually so many.

Obama walked on the white sand of the beach, where water access was blocked by yellow "caution" tape. At one point, he knelt next to the shore to inspect the sand, and seized something that the White House press corps traveling with him couldn't quite see from afar at first.

When they got closer, reporter Tangi Quemener wrote in a pool report, they realized Obama was holding a handful of nickel- to quarter-sized tarballs.

Obama has recently ordered his administration to conduct a full-scale review of drilling practices off U.S. coastlines. A day after a news conference in which he acknowledged some shortcomings by his own regulators, Obama skipped a scheduled vacation day to go to the gulf. His tour continues this afternoon.

--Christi Parsons, reporting from Washington

Photos: Oil spill spreads

Hi-res photos: Gulf oil spill

Photos: Past oil disasters