Coastal Zone Management

Aerial view of Gull Point on Presque Isle State Park

The Coastal Zone Management program works to conserve and protect our coastal resources. This is especially important in Erie County, where more than 75 percent of Erie County residents live within a coastal zone municipality. This concentrated population places intense pressure on the Lake Erie ecosystem. Nonpoint source pollution, shoreline erosion and biodiversity losses are only a few of the problems the area is facing. As human impacts have grown, water quality, wildlife habitat and coastal wetland acreage continue to be threatened.

Balancing coastal land use with conservation of water-related resources is the goal of Pennsylvania’s Coastal Zone Management Program, which is approved by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and receives implementation funding through the Federal Coastal Zone Management Act.

In Erie County, the Coastal Zone Management Program uses grant funding, active monitoring and technical assistance to conserve and protect our coastal areas and watersheds in the Lake Erie Coastal Zone.

Grant Programs

The Coastal Zone Management (CZM) program in Erie County provides funding for projects located within the 63 miles of Pennsylvania’s Lake Erie coastline and inward to the coastal zone boundary. The grant money can be used for many types of projects including education, construction, research, plans and studies, land acquisition and easements, and design. The proposed project must advance the following CZM program polices , which include:

  • Mitigating bluff recession and coastal flooding
  • Monitoring dredging and spoil disposal
  • Managing fish stocks
  • Protecting wetlands
  • Improving public access for recreation
  • Preserving historic sites and structures
  • Enhancing port activities and infrastructure
  • Locating energy facilities
  • Strengthening intergovernmental coordination
  • Increasing public involvement
  • Controlling invasive species

Other grant programs include the Coastal Nonpoint Pollution Control Program and the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

Active Monitoring

In conjunction with the state Department of Environmental Protection, Erie County staff assists in monitoring bluff erosion in coastal zone municipalities. More than 100 control points in Erie County are located along Lake Erie’s bluff, and these points are measured every two to three years to determine how far the bluff has receded.

The Erie County Department of Planning and Community Development also administers the grants for the Bluff Setback Ordinances to local municipalities. Each coastal municipality must submit annual reports that document the number of permits issued or denied for residential, commercial and industrial uses in the bluff recession hazard area. These reports are sent to the state’s DEP Northwest Regional Office.  Municipalities can find more information on requirements of the Bluff Recession Setback Act in the Municipal Reference Document.

The Department of Planning and Community Development also assists the state DEP with monitoring wetlands in Erie County.

Technical Assistance

Erie County staff provides technical assistance to municipalities and organizations on the CZM program. From advising potential applicants on how to submit an application to the preparation of the final report, Erie County staff work closely with the grantees to ensure the successful completion of their project.

For further information on how the Coastal Zone Management Program can benefit your municipality or organization, call the Department of Planning and Community Development at 814-451-7332.

CZM Projects

The Coastal Resources Management Program funds the following project types: Construction, Research, Planning, Acquisition, and Design. The following projects were funded in part through the Coastal Resources Management Program, and have recently completed their project work:

2017-PE.03 – Erie Times News in Education – Tackling Water Problems Through Education and Service Learning

Erie Times-News in Education, in partnership with the Pennsylvania Sea Grant and other agencies, publishes regular pages related to the conservation of Lake Erie coastal resources and citizen stewardship activities, especially those involving K-12 students. This project educates and involves thousands of citizens, elected officials, professionals and more than 6,000 K-12 students in protecting Pennsylvania’s Lake Erie Coastal Zone and the entire Pennsylvania Lake Erie Watershed. These pages address topics such as harmful algal blooms, plastic pollution, invasive species, and problems that can only be solved when citizens of all ages get involved. This project has been referenced by the National Sea Grant office as a best practice for informing and involving citizens.

2016-PE.04 – Regional Science Consortium – Investigating the “Harm” of Harmful Algal Blooms Along the Coastline of Lake Erie and Presque Isle Bay

This program supported the research efforts of the Regional Science Consortium in its weekly water sampling and analyses along the entire Lake Erie coastline in Pennsylvania. Algal blooms are a naturally occurring event but the addition of excess nutrients in our waterways can cause excessive growth. Harmful algal blooms (HABs) create a human health concern due to the release of toxins that can affect those that recreate or come in contact with those waters. The Regional Science Consortium notifies Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and the Erie County Department of Health with results on a weekly basis, and cautionary signage is then posted at sampling locations as necessary.  This type of collaborative work is a critically important tool to help inform and protect every resident and visitor to the Lake Erie Coastal Zone.

2016-PS.05 – Texas Tech University – Bat Migration Across Lake Erie: Project Year 2

Funding support administered by Pennsylvania’s Coastal Resources Management Program enabled Texas Tech to construct the first two towers in the coastal zone, install the international MOTUS Wildlife Tracking System, and tag 102 bats digitally with radio transmitters during the first fall and spring migration across Lake Erie between Presque Isle State Park and Long Point, Ontario. Data confirmed that the migrating bats flew across Lake Erie in both seasons, in a broad front, without following a consistent migratory corridor, but surprisingly using many points and pathways instead. This collaborative effort between Texas Tech University, Fanshawe College and Bird Studies Canada was an opportunity to share information and join in field work efforts. This project has been highlighted by the NOAA Office for Coastal Management as a groundbreaking research study and a first for Pennsylvania.

2015-PE.04 – Texas Tech University – Bat Migration Across Lake Erie:  Implications for Offshore Wind Energy Development