Welcome to Erie County Planning

Coastal Zone Management



More than 53 percent of the U.S. population lives within a coastal area, and this number is even greater in Erie County. According to the 2000 Census, 76 percent of Erie County residents live within a coastal zone municipality. This concentrated population places intense pressure on the Lake Erie ecosystem. Nonpoint source pollution, shoreline erosion, and biodiversity losses are only a few of the problems the area is facing. As human impacts have grown, water quality, wildlife habitat and coastal wetland acreage continue to be threatened. Balancing coastal land use with conservation of water-related resources is the goal of Pennsylvania’s Coastal Zone Management Program.


The Pennsylvania Coastal Zone Management Program (CZM) began in 1980. Approved by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), it is one of 34 state and territorial programs receiving implementation funding through the Federal Coastal Zone Management Act. Through grant programs, active monitoring, and technical assistance, the CZM Program uses a watershed-based approach to conserve and protect Erie’s coastal resources.

Grant Programs:

The Coastal Zone Management Program in Erie County provides funding for projects located within the 63 miles of Pennsylvania’s Lake Erie coastline and inward to the coastal zone boundary . The grant money can be used for many types of projects including education, construction, research, planning, acquisition, and design. The proposed project must be in accordance to one or more of the eleven CZM program policies, which include:

  • Mitigating bluff recession and coastal flooding
  • Monitoring dredging and spoil disposal
  • Managing fish stocks
  • Protecting wetlands
  • Improving public access for recreation
  • Preserving historic sites and structures
  • Enhancing port activities and infrastructure
  • Locating energy facilities
  • Strengthening intergovernmental coordination
  • Increasing public involvement
  • Controlling invasive species

Other grant programs include the Coastal Non-Point Source Pollution Program (CNPP) and the Great Lakes Restoration Fund (GLRF).

Active Monitoring:

In conjunction with the DEP, Erie County staff assists in monitoring bluff erosion in the coastal zone municipalities. Over one hundred control points in Erie County are located along Lake Erie’s bluff and these points are measured on a regular basis (every two to three years) to determine how far the bluff has receded.

Erie County Department of Planning also administers the grants for the Bluff Setback Ordinances to local municipalities. Each coastal municipality must submit annual reports that document the number of permits issued or denied for residential, commercial, and industrial uses in the bluff recession hazard area. These reports are sent to the State’s DEP Northwest Regional Office.  Municipalities can find more information on requirements of the Bluff Recession Setback Act in the Municipal Reference Document.  

The Department of Planning also assists the State DEP with monitoring wetlands in Erie County.

Technical Assistance:

Erie County staff provides technical assistance to the different municipalities and organizations on the CZM program. From advising potential applicants on how to submit an application to the preparation of the final report, Erie County staff work closely with the grantees to ensure the successful completion of their project.

For further information on how the Coastal Zone Management Program can benefit your municipality or organization, contact Joy Knapp at 814-451-7332 or at jknapp@eriecountypa.gov. Applications and additional information can be found at Pennsylvania’s Coastal Zone Management program web page.


Erie County Courthouse - 140 West Sixth Street, Erie, PA 16501 - (814) 451-6000 - TDD Phone: (814) 451-6237 - Hours: Monday through Friday, 8:00am to 4:30pm
Contact Us - Department Listing