Casey seeks more sand money; Senator requests $1M for beach replenishment

By Robb Frederick, Erie Times News

Not enough sand?

Nobody told Katie Seifert, a sixth-grader from Sacred Heart School. She buried her legs on Beach 7 at Presque Isle State Park on Tuesday. Her friends helped, sculpting her bottom half into the shape of a mermaid's tail.

Behind them, on the planks of the wheelchair beach ramp, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey talked about his tour of the peninsula, which has a history of thinning.

Northeasterly winds draw sand off the peninsula's northern shore. That scallops the beaches. And that draws promises from lawmakers, who have secured more than $37.8 million to replace sand lost since 1975.

Casey, the state's freshman senator, saw it for the first time Tuesday. His trolley ride stopped at the North Pier and at beaches 10, 7 and Stone Jetty.

"Being here, seeing it up close, I have a much stronger sense of the situation," he said.

"You really get a sense of this treasure we have here, and how important it is to preserve it," Casey said.

To that end, Casey has asked for $1 million for sand replenishment.

State and federal agencies typically split the cost. In 2006, they brought in more than 56,000 tons of sand -- most of it imported from Canada -- at a cost of $897,000.

This year the federal government balked. U.S. Rep. Phil English, R-3rd Dist., secured just $90,000.

"The state stepped in this year," said Casey, a Scranton Democrat. "The federal government has got to do its part."

The answer won't come fast. The appropriations process is a long one, and Casey does not sit on the committee. He won't know about the sand money until fall -- long after Katie Seifert has dug out.

Tuesday was a start, however.

"Knowledge is golden," said Harry Leslie, the park's operations manager. "Anytime we can get our elected officials out here and let them know what we need, it helps us."

And then Casey was gone, off to his next stop. The TV crews packed up. The beach once again belonged to the kids, who flew kites and built mermaid tails and dug all the way down to water.