State of the Beach/State Reports/PA/Beach Description

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Pennsylvania Ratings
Indicator Type Information Status
Beach Access54
Water Quality54
Beach Erosion9-
Erosion Response-7
Beach Fill4-
Shoreline Structures5 2
Beach Ecology2-
Surfing Areas14
Coastal Development{{{19}}}{{{20}}}
Sea Level Rise{{{21}}}{{{22}}}


The Pennsylvania coastal zone consists of two very distinct geographical regions along the coasts of Lake Erie and the Delaware Estuary. The Lake Erie Coastal Zone is a rural environment extending 63 miles from its eastern border with the state of New York to its western border with the State of Ohio. The land-lake interface is dominated by bluffs ranging in size from 5 to 180 feet, providing a delicate and beautiful coastal environment centering on the Presque Isle Peninsula. Presque Isle is a state park that is one of the most frequently visited of all state and national parks in the country, exemplifying the recreational importance of the area. The City of Erie, located in Presque Isle Bay, provides port access for important commercial and industrial activities, creating the need for adequate coastal governance to manage the conflicting uses of the coastal environment.

The Delaware Estuary Coastal Zone is a highly urbanized environment, ranging from the southern boundary with the state of Delaware to the tidal influence of the Delaware River in the north, extending to the falls at Morrisville. The tidal ranges flowing up the Schuylkill River and Neshaminy Creek are also included in the coastal zone. The three counties of Bucks, Philadelphia, and Delaware comprise 57 miles of shoreline along the Delaware Estuary that are economically dependent on the major ports of Chester and Philadelphia for commercial shipping. This portion of the coastal zone is rich in heritage as represented by historically important sites including Neshaminy State Park, Pennsbury Manor, Philadelphia’s FDR Park, and the Philadelphia Water Works.

Contact Info for Lead Coastal Zone Management Agency

Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection
Coastal Resources Management Program
400 Market Street, 2nd Floor
Harrisburg, PA 17105
(717) 772-4785
Staff Contacts

Coastal Zone Management Program

The Pennsylvania Coastal Resources Management Program, within the Department of Environmental Protection, administers the Pennsylvania Coastal Program. The Coastal Program was approved in 1980 and is comprised of two widely separated coastal areas: the 63-mile Lake Erie shoreline and the 57-mile stretch of coastline along the Delaware Estuary. The Coastal Program relies on a network of state authorities and the Department of Environmental Resources has regulatory authority under many of theses statutes.

The Coastal Program addresses a variety of coastal management issues including public access, management of invasive plants and animals, and inventorying and protecting wetlands. The Coastal Program supports the development and implementation of the Pennsylvania State Water Plan that integrates coastal priorities into the long-term protection of the state's surface and groundwater resources. In the Delaware Estuary coastal zone, the program emphasizes providing support for implementation of Best Management Practices designed to reduce nonpoint source pollution into coastal waters.

The Coastal Program also addresses coastal hazards such as shoreline erosion and bluff recession along the Lake Erie shoreline. The Coastal Program offers a free Technical Advisory Service that provides analysis and recommendations for addressing coastal hazards issues at the individual parcel level, and suports the development of workshops and publications for both private property owners and professional coastal contractors. The Coastal Program also provides financial and technical assistance for local governments' administration of the Bluff Recession and Setback Act in the Erie Coastal Zone. The Act regulates the location of new structures and improvements to existing structures that are located in the bluff recession hazard area, which is the zone where the bluff recession rate creates a substantial threat to existing or future structures.

The regulatory aspect of the program is centered primarily on the following Commonwealth statutes:

NOAA's latest evaluation of Pennsylvania's Coastal Resources Management Program can be found here.

State of the Beach Report: Pennsylvania
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