Begin Main Content Area

About the Program

The Coast

The coastal zone is the area where the land meets the sea and includes both coastal waters and adjacent shorelands. These areas face increasing pressure from development, shoreline erosion, biodiversity losses and nonpoint source pollution. Pennsylvania has two coastal areas: 77 miles of coastline along Lake Erie and 112 miles of coastline along the Delaware Estuary.

The Lake Erie coastal zone is located within Erie County and includes the shorelines of major tributaries. The coastal zone also extends to the middle of the lake, to the boundary with Canada and inland an average of 1.4 miles. The Lake also contains Presque Isle State Park and is one of the state ports for international shipping.

The Delaware Estuary Coastal Zone lies within Bucks, Philadelphia, and Delaware counties. The coastal zone also contains islands, marshes and shorelands of tributary streams that are tidally influenced. The combined facilities of the Delaware Estuary comprise the largest freshwater port in the world.

Coastal Resources Management Program

In September 1980, the U.S. Department of Commerce approved Pennsylvania's Coastal Zone Management Plan under the authority of the federal Coastal Zone Management Act of 1972. DEP's Compacts and Commissions Office coordinates and implements the Coastal Resources Management Program (CRM) to execute sound coastal management program policies in Pennsylvania's two coastal areas.

CRM receives funding from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to administer the PA Coastal Resources Management Program and provide grants to local governments, state agencies and nonprofit organizations to undertake projects in the coastal zones. Since the program's federal approval in 1980, the Pennsylvania Coastal Resources Management Program has provided over 50 million dollars in funding for coastal zone projects that advance the following program policies listed below.

Program Policies

  • Coastal Hazard Areas: Pennsylvania's coastal hazards are defined as bluff recession along Lake Erie and coastal flooding in both coastal zones.
  • Dredging and Spoil Disposal: This economically vital activity must be carefully managed to avoid adverse effects on navigation, flood flow capacity, public interest, and environmental quality. (Note: Coastal Resources Management funds cannot be used to pay for actual dredging operations).
  • Fisheries Management: The strong demand for recreational fishing in both coastal zones requires efforts to protect and improve stocks of popular game-fish species.
  • Wetlands: This policy involves the protection, enhancement and creation of coastal wetlands in order to maintain benefits for wildlife habitat, flood control, water quality, water flow stabilization and environmental diversity (biodiversity).
  • Public Access for Recreation: Efforts are required to meet the public need for boating, fishing, walking, picnicking, sightseeing and other recreational pursuits associated with the waterfront.
  • Historic Sites and Structures: This policy includes preservation, restoration and enhancement of coastally significant historic sites and structures within the coastal zone.
  • Port Activities: The development and enhancement of coastal port infrastructure is an important aspect of the economic vitality of the waterfront.
  • Energy Facilities Siting: Energy-producing facilities are vital to our society but improper siting (placement) can be damaging to fragile coastal ecosystems.
  • Intergovernmental Coordination: This policy includes intergovernmental efforts to protect Pennsylvania's coastal resources, especially the quality of our air and water.
  • Public Involvement: Efforts are required to increase awareness, provide information and create opportunities for public participation in a variety of coastal issues.
  • Ocean Resources: Efforts directed toward the research, study, and/or management of non-native (invasive) aquatic or terrestrial plant and/or animal species.

Work Activities

Program activities are reviewed and advice is given by the PA Coastal Zone Advisory Committee. CRM work activities include:

  • Working with other organizations and agencies with similar policy goals on coastal issues of regional or national importance.
  • Providing financial assistance for coastal improvement projects in the coastal zones.
  • Supporting public outreach, education and public input strategies.
  • Monitoring coastal wetland activities and investigating acreage changes.
  • Assisting local administration and enforcement of the Bluff Recession Setback Act which requires local zoning permits for development within Lake Erie bluff areas.
  • Evaluating federal, state and local activities for consistency with coastal program policies.
  • Providing technical assistance to Lake Erie property owners affected by shoreline erosion and bluff recession.
  • Measuring rates of shoreline erosion and bluff recession.
  • CRM also has a federally approved program for controlling coastal nonpoint source pollution

Links for more Information:

Lake Erie Boundary Expansion
Lake Erie Bluff Recession

Boundary Maps:

Delaware Estuary Coastal Zone (Section 306 area)
Lake Erie Coastal Zone (Section 306 area)
Southeastern PA and Lake Erie Coastal Nonpoint Program Areas (Section 6217 areas) (PDF)

Downloadable Materials:

2014 Funding Fact Sheet (PDF)
2013 Funding Fact Sheet (PDF)
2012 Funding Fact Sheet (PDF)