State of the Beach/State Reports/PA

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Pennsylvania has very comprehensive information on Lake Erie shoreline erosion and on erosion response policies. The state has fair water quality information and poor-to-fair water quality. There is good beach access information for Presque Isle State Park but little access information for the rest of the coast. Beach ecology information is also confined primarily to Presque Isle State Park, although there is also wetlands and aquatic ecology information. Beach fill and shoreline structure information was fair.

Pennsylvania Ratings


(+) The Great Lakes Commission (GLC), in partnership with LimnoTech and the Great Lakes states, has developed a free smartphone application that provides convenient, public access to swim advisories and other environmental conditions information for more than 1,800 beaches in the Great Lakes region. The myBeachCast application (app) retrieves locational and advisory data for Great Lakes in the eight Great Lakes states. The app also features real-time and forecasted weather and lake conditions (e.g., water temperature, wave heights, wind speed/direction) and nearshore marine forecasts, drawn from the Great Lakes Observing System (GLOS) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). myBeachCast allows users to discover local beaches based on the user’s location, view beaches and their status on a map, save favorite beaches, and get driving directions. To download myBeachCast, go to

(+) CRM has conducted numerous studies since 1975 identifying the serious bluff recession and shoreline erosion hazards of storm events during periods of higher lake levels in Lake Erie. CRM staff analyzed existing 1998, 2006 and 2007 Lidar data to create a baseline and are working with the ACOE to obtain Lidar data in 2011, then will finish an analysis to plan how to use Lidar coverages to either replace or supplement an existing monitoring system.

(+) The Commonwealth’s Bluff Recession and Setback Act (BRSA) was passed in 1980 and requires that new residential, commercial, and industrial structures be constructed outside of designated bluff recession hazard areas. Eight municipalities along the Lake Erie coast have designated bluff recession hazard areas and have enacted new or amended existing ordinances to incorporate the setback requirements.

(+) A draft document, Criteria and Methodology for the Proper and Consistent Design, Placement and Modification of Shoreline Stabilization Structures along Pennsylvania's Lake Erie Shoreline, is in a final stage of development.

(+) Erie County and other partners and concerned citizens have worked to address the impairments (to fish and sediments) identified in the designation of Presque Isle Bay as an Area of Concern. Over $100 million has been spent to address sewage and outfall issues, and there are no longer any combined sewage outfalls left on the Bay. The waterfront has changed from industrial use to commercial and recreational uses. The International Joint Commission has now declared Presque Isle Bay as one of only two Areas of Concern to be “in recovery.”

(-) In March 2017 the Trump administration proposed a 97% cut in funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

(-) In March 2015 US EPA issued an assessment of Pennsylvania's efforts to control runoff of pollutants from agricultural operations into the Chesapeake Bay watershed. A press release for the assessment stated:

"The assessment found that Pennsylvania has robust and well-implemented federal Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO) and state Concentrated Animal Operation (CAO) programs. The CAO program includes additional operations that are not regulated under the federal CAFO program. These programs regulate approximately 10-20 percent of Pennsylvania’s animal agriculture operations. For the remaining 80-90 percent of Pennsylvania’s animal agriculture operations, EPA’s assessment found that the Commonwealth is lacking a strong compliance assurance program to achieve full compliance with its Manure Management Program and Agriculture Erosion and Sediment Control Program that cover these operations."

(-) A bill (HB1565) that was working its way through the state legislature in Fall 2014 would eliminate a requirement for 150-foot buffer zones between new developments and specially protected watersheds. Read more.

(-) Pennsylvania is known as a "low-water mark" state, meaning that the owners of property bordering the shoreline own and pay taxes on it to the low-water mark.

(-) Lake Erie surpasses all the other Great Lakes in the amount of effluent received from sewage treatment plants.

(-) According to the Department's section 303(d) list, about 16% of streams in the Lake Erie Coastal Zone are impaired. 44% of these 22 miles of nonattaining streams are impaired by urban runoff/storm sewers and small residential runoff impacts. These reaches include almost all assessed streams within Erie City limits, including Mill and Cascade Creek West Branch, along with two tributaries and Millcreek Township and North East Township and Borough.

(-) At Presgue Isle State Park, a state and federal program built a linear seawall, with 12 perpendicular groins jutting out into the lake in the 1950s. Fifty-five separate rocky breakwaters were built for erosion control between 1989 and 1992.

(-) Aquatic communities in the Lake Erie watershed have been impacted by overharvest, invasive species, dams, and environmental degradation, mostly brought on by the impacts of human development. Conversion of land from natural forested areas to agricultural and urban development increases the inputs of sediment, nutrients, and contaminants.


To see all of Surfrider Foundation's coastal victories and campaigns, go here.

State of the Beach Report: Pennsylvania
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