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 77 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.

Coastal Zone and Stormwater Interpretive Signage Guide

Erie County staff has developed an educational signage design template guidance document for use by Erie County municipalities located within the Coastal Zone areas, including our communities permitted under the Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) program.

The guide serves as a voluntary resource for municipal project planning and is intended to promote and acknowledge storm water best management practices, focused on education, prevention of bluff erosion and coastal zone protection, through consistent messaging across the Coastal Zone. Another goal of this resource serves to establish unified identification of interest points across our (9) Coastal and bluff municipalities.

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.02 Greene Twp Park Planning – Hartman Park Master Plan

Greene Township initiated a master park plan on 16 acres of property located in a valley adjacent to Fourmile Creek to conserve the space as a riparian buffer while offering public accessibility for recreational activities. Based on community input and professional guidance, Greene Township aims to convert the property into a vibrant public park to serve the community in perpetuity, to formally preserve the future of green space and riparian buffer along Fourmile Creek. The vision for each of the park areas on either side of Fourmile Creek include: a neighborhood-oriented community park with play space amenities and open green space, and more nature-oriented community amenities such as nature play area, wetland, stream access and stream viewing areas. Through projects like this, the program is committed to providing support for municipal planning efforts, which will enhance outdoor recreation and public access to our Lake Erie Coastal Zone.


2017-PE.04 Regional Science Consortium – Using Data to Determine Sand Nourishment Strategies for Presque Isle State Park.

This program supported the research efforts of the Regional Science consortium on this project, undertaken in partnership with the DCNR. In 1992 the US Army Corp of Engineers installed 55 breakwaters armoring the peninsula against continual wave action to prevent sand erosion and loss to its swimming beaches; however sand nourishment is still necessary. This project effectively collected sand erosion and transport data used to advise beach managers of nourishment locations and strategies to preserve swimming beaches at Presque Isle State Park. This type of collaborative work is critically important to promoting the protection and enhancement of public access to our Lake Erie Coastal Zone.


2020-PE.02 – Erie County Conservation District – North East Beach Access – Mobi Mats

Funding support administered by Pennsylvania’s Pennsylvania’s Coastal Resources Management Program enabled the Erie County Conservation District to partner with North East Township and North East Borough to provide additional beach and shoreline access for those with mobility issues. This multi-municipal collaboration utilized the installation of two Mobi-Mats at Freeport Beach and Twentymile Creek Public Access for seasonal use. As an additional benefit, this project provides educational information to visitors through interpretive signage, focused on the unique aspects of Lake Erie, its shoreline and the changes observed throughout the seasons.