State of the Beach/State Reports/PA/Shoreline Structures

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Pennsylvania Ratings
Indicator Type Information Status
Beach Access54
Water Quality54
Beach Erosion9-
Erosion Response-7
Beach Fill4-
Shoreline Structures 5 2
Beach Ecology2-
Surfing Areas14
Coastal Development{{{19}}}{{{20}}}
Sea Level Rise{{{21}}}{{{22}}}


Pennsylvania's Coastal Management Program allows property owners to install small groins -- structures built perpendicular to the shore that trap sand -- to stabilize eroding shorelines that threaten upland development. To ensure that groin impacts on public access and neighboring properties are minimized, the Pennsylvania Coastal Management Program has developed guidance for the placement and design of these structures: Criteria and Methodology for the Proper and Consistent Placement of Shoreline Stabilization Structures along Pennsylvania's Lake Erie Shoreline.

The guidance stipulates that groins cannot extend beyond four feet of water depth. This is known as the "breaker zone" for Lake Erie. Extending beyond this depth would impair littoral sand transport. In addition, groins cannot be closer than two groin lengths from the next groin or less than four groin lengths from an adjoining property. This way any beach loss that occurs down drift from a groin will occur on the owner's property and not the neighbor's. The guidelines also recommend that groins be low-profile groins (no more than 18" above the mean water level at the landward end), to allow for over-topping of littoral material during storm events. Low-profile groins are also easier to step over, so they don't significantly impair lateral public access along the shoreline.

NOAA's 2006 evaluation of the PCZMP states:

"The PCZMP also developed a guidance document during the period covered by this evaluation that addresses the criteria and methodology for the proper and consistent placement of groin structures along the Lake Erie shoreline. The guidance document is used by DEP personnel in review of Chapter 105 permits authorized by the Pennsylvania Dam Safety and Encroachments Act. The guidance applies to all Lake Erie shoreline property owners applying for a permit to construct groin structures below the ordinary high water mark for the purpose of beach maintenance or shoreline erosion, to property owners who have existing, unpermitted groin structures, and to owners of permitted structures seeking to modify those structures."

Pennsylvania CRM's draft Assessment and Strategy (June 2010) states:

"Significant changes under Sediment Management Plans have to do with the development of draft standards for shoreline protection structures. In the past, there was a lack of specific criteria in the form of reference data for length, height and spacing of shore perpendicular structures. CRM is in the final stages of developing criteria to specify and standardize reference data, which would support consistent design and placement of new structures and modifications to existing structures. This 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. Currently, this document is being used for assistance during internal review of shoreline protection structures and some (but not all) concepts from it have already been used to condition several state permits for shoreline protection structures along PA’s Lake Erie shoreline. Before finalization this document is going through several years of field testing to assure quality control before moving it forward to Official Department guidance."

Pennsylvania's Coastal Resources Management Program website has links to three additional Program Reference Documents concerning shoreline armoring. These are:


Breakwaters off the coast of Presque Isle

At Presque 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.[1] There are now 58 breakwaters.[2]

Here is a fact sheet for the Presque Isle Shoreline Erosion Control Project.

No comprehensive inventory of shoreline structures could be found.

The Fiscal Year 2017 Civil Works Budget for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers provides $4.62 billion in gross discretionary funding for the Civil Works program. This budget lists proposed projects and the associated budget justification by state.


J. Samantha Burton
Coastal Resources Program
Program Analyst/GIS & CNPP Coordinator
Telephone: (717) 772-5635

Perception of Effectiveness

Pennsylvania-Lake Erie Shoreline Protection Structures Study (September 2001) was prepared "to provide the Pennsylvania Department Environmental Protection (DEP) with necessary tools to evaluate impacts ofplacing groins, revetments, or combinations thereof. Special consideration was given to impacts on littoral drift, potential for increased erosion or deposition, spacing of groins, general construction standards, and appropriate construction techniques." The report provides some inventory information in the form of photographs and a NOAA Lake Chart.

Public Education Program

CRM's Draft Assessment and Strategy (June 2010) states:

"The significant changes under Hazards Education and Outreach have to do with several years of CRM sponsored workshops for shoreline and bluff property owners and professionals dealing with coastal properties and property owners e.g. real estate salespersons, engineers, landscapers, architects, etc. CRM staff have worked through the PA Sea Grant office to conduct multi-state workshops, working also with Ohio and New York Coastal Programs and Sea Grant offices. This training has been very successful in educating professionals in the field that may have daily or regular contact with coastal property owners or property owners seeking advice from coastal contractors."
"The CRM Program has been addressing proper vegetation management since 1982 when it created the Technical Advisory Services to advise coastal property owners on ways to address shoreline erosion and bluff recession on the bluffs overlooking Lake Erie. What is needed now are additional guidelines to help assure provisions for proper vegetation management are considered in municipal land development permitting, and county conservation district advisory services on proper land management."


State of the Beach Report: Pennsylvania
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