IMPROVING AQUATIC HABITATS AND ENSURING SAFE STREAM ACCESS THROUGH THE LAKE ERIE ACCESS IMPROVEMENT PROGRAM
The Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission and Pennsylvania Sea Grant work collaboratively to improve aquatic habitat within Lake Erie and regional tributaries through the Lake Erie Access Improvement Program.
In addition to focusing on the fish and the habitat they need to survive and thrive, the program also focuses on streamside landowners and anglers – ensuring adequate and safe access for anglers and compensation for landowners willing to grant stream access.
Presque Isle Bay and the cool water streams that feed into Lake Erie have become a popular destination for anglers, especially those seeking the steelhead. Each year approximately 250,000 trips are made to the region – generating nearly $10 million in economic activity. Thus, ensuring healthy habitats, streams, and safe access for anglers is a win-win for the region.
While the steelhead may be the most sought after fish, the Lake Erie Access Improvement Program is not just for steelhead. Funding, which is generated through the sale of Lake Erie Permits and Trout-Salmon/Lake Erie Combo Permits, can be used to improve public fishing access for any species. Past funding has been used to improve fishing access in Presque Isle Bay, where common catches also include perch and panfish.
In 2004, the Pennsylvania State legislature adopted Act 159, which ensures annual funding of $600,000 for public fishing access improvements on or at Lake Erie and the Watersheds of Lake Erie. Known as the "Erie Access Improvement Program," the fund provides the resources needed to acquire easements for fishing access, to make improvements to existing access locations, and to make in-stream fish habitat improvements.
By participating in the Lake Erie Access Improvement Program, landowners receive financial compensation for granting fishing access to the stream and to a 35-foot wide riparian buffer from the top of the bank along the stream. The riparian buffer enables space for a footpath, and promotes the growth of vegetation whose roots will help reduce bank erosion and whose foliage will help cool the stream for improved habitat for all aquatic species.
Pennsylvania Sea Grant works with landowners to assess the eligibility of their streamside property for a fishing easement and guides landowners through all steps of the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission’s process – from application to closing and payment.