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State Facts

Miles of Coast: 140

Coastal Population (2000): 2,990,800

Lead Coastal Management Agency: Department of Environmental Protection, Water Planning Office

Approval Date: 1980

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Ocean and Coastal Management in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania’s Coastal 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.

photo of Dobbins Landing

Dobbins Landing draws many visitors to the coast of Lake Erie, PA.

The Pennsylvania coastal zone along Lake Erie varies from 900 feet in urban areas to over 3 miles in rural areas, and encompasses the floodplains of Lake Erie and tributary streams, bluff hazard recession areas, and coastal wetlands. The Delaware River Estuary, where the boundary extends inland from 660 feet in urbanized areas to 3.5 miles in rural areas, includes floodplains of the Delaware and Schuykill Rivers and their tributaries to the upper limit of tidal influence, as well as tidal and freshwater wetlands.

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.

photo of PA coast

Dredging is often necessary to keep channels deep enough for boat traffic but dredging can significantly alter river banks, floodplains, and water flow. Shuylkill River, PA.

Program Achievements

Pennsylvania Develops College Level Nonpoint Source Pollution Curriculum

Pennsylvania set to track Coastal Nonpoint Pollution Program (CNPP) progress with a new GIS application called NPS Tool


Pennsylvania Coastal Management Program — The website provides information on the Program including permitting, coastal planning, and technical assistance activities.

Pennsylvania Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Plan (2010) — Pennsylvania has developed a Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Plan that provides an assessment of priority conservation needs and guidance for nominating and selecting land conservation projects to OCRM's Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program competition.

Marine Protected Areas — Search for marine protected areas in Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania Coastal Nonpoint Program Conditional and Full Approval Documents — The Coastal Nonpoint Pollution Control Program encourages better coordination between state and coastal zone managers and water quality experts to reduce polluted runoff in the coastal zone. The state received full approval in 2001.

Pennsylvania Coastal Program Evaluation (2011) — The Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management conducts periodic performance reviews of federally approved state coastal management programs.

Pennsylvania Coastal Zone Enhancement Program Assessment and Strategy (2011-2016) — Every five years, the Coastal Zone Management Act encourages states and territories to conduct self-evaluations of their coastal management programs to assess significant changes in the state’s coastal resources and management practices, identify critical needs, and prioritize areas for enhancement under the Coastal Zone Enhancement Program.

Contact Information for Pennsylvania’s Program

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