State of the Beach/State Reports/OH/Beach Description
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The Ohio coastal area includes all of the waters of Lake Erie to the international boundary with
Canada, the islands in the Lake, and adjacent shorelands within Ohio. The inland coastal
management boundary includes all shorelands subject to erosion or flooding, estuarine areas and
wetlands, and other areas where the use of which may directly and significantly affect Lake Erie
waters. The inland extent of the boundary varies based on the biogeographic features of the area.
For example, the boundary extends inland approximately 16 miles along the Maumee River,
while in urban areas, the coastal boundary generally is less than a half mile from the shore. The
inland boundary was developed based on substantial public input.
As part of the Nation’s “fourth seacoast” (the Great Lakes), Ohio’s Lake Erie coast consists of 312 miles of mainland and island shores, as well as 3,277 square miles of water. Approximately 41 percent of the residents of the State live within the Lake Erie basin. Approximately 33,000 acres of valuable coastal wetlands in Ohio support at least 250 species of nesting birds, including the bald eagle. Shallow waters in the island and bay region provide fish spawning grounds and nurseries, sustaining a commercial and sport fishing industry.
Lake Erie divides naturally into three major basins: western, central and eastern. The western basin, extending from Toledo to Huron, includes the Lake Erie Islands of Ohio. The largest and most developed islands are Kelleys Island and North, Middle and South Bass Islands. Rattlesnake and Ballast Islands are smaller and privately owned. West Sister and Green Islands are undeveloped and are wildlife refuges. The central basin extends from Sandusky to Erie, Pennsylvania, where the eastern basin begins.
Ohio’s portion of the western basin of Lake Erie includes about 450,000 surface acres of water and approximately 137 miles of shoreline. The area has numerous reefs and shoals, rocky islands, and sandy beaches. It is the most productive fish spawning and nursery grounds in the Great Lakes. Maximum water depth in the western basin is 46 feet, with an average depth of 24 feet. Bottom types range from sand and silt to hard packed clay and limestone bedrock.
Ohio’s portion of central Lake Erie includes 1,783,000 surface acres of water and approximately 125 miles of shoreline. Maximum depth of the central basin is 80 feet, with an average depth of 56 feet. The bottom is made up of a gravel and shale bedrock covered in most areas by mud and sand.
- Fact 1: Miles of Coast: 312
- Fact 2: Coastal Population (2000): 2,659,770
- Fact 3: Approximately 24% of Ohioans live in the eight coastal counties, plus Wood County
Contact Info for Lead Coastal Zone Management Agency
Office of Coastal Management Department of Natural Resources
105 West Shoreline Drive
Sandusky, OH 44870
(419) 626-7980 or 1 888-OhioCMP (1-888-644-6267)
Old Woman Creek National Estuarine Research Reserve
2514 Cleveland Road, East
Huron, OH 44839
Coastal Zone Management Program
The Ohio Coastal Management Program is designed to integrate management of Ohio's Lake Erie coast in order to preserve, protect, develop, restore, and enhance Ohio's valuable and sometimes vulnerable coastal resources. NOAA approved Ohio's Coastal Program in 1997. The Coastal Program is a networked program and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources serves as the lead agency.
The Coastal Program policies address nine management areas: coastal erosion and flooding; water quality; ecologically sensitive areas; ports and shoreline development; recreation and cultural resources; fish and wildlife management; environmental quality; energy and mineral resources; and water quantity. The Coastal Program works to promote the wise management of land and water uses that have direct and significant impacts on the Lake Erie coastal area.
The Coastal Program also works closely with local governments. The Coastal Program has developed the Coastal Management Assistance Grant program to assist local communities with priority management issues such as comprehensive community planning, improving public access to Lake Erie, watershed planning to address coastal nonpoint pollution, and conducting coastal research and education.
NOAA's latest evaluation of Ohio's Coastal Zone Program can be found here.
- Ohio Coastal Management Program Assessment and Multi-Year Strategy 2006-2010, Ohio Department of Natural Resources Office of Coastal Management, October 2006
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