Sen. Gary Peters underscores need for flooding aid program in Oak Park visit

U.S. Sen. Gary Peters was in Oak Park with city and county officials to see how flooding this year has affected homeowners and the city.

Peters highlighted his $500 million STORM infrastructure bill — passed in the Senate but still pending in the U.S. House of Representatives — that would help states provide low-cost loan programs for local governments  dealing with flooding, infrastructure and other challenges related to natural disasters.

The bill also would fund loans to help communities with the cost of mitigation projects, from improving old storm water systems to shoreline erosion.

Peters toured Shepherd Park on Wednesday, along with Oak Park Mayor Marian McClellan, Oakland County Water Resource Commissioner Jim Nash, and Birmingham Bloomfield Chamber of Commerce President Joe Bauman.

In a statement, Peters said his visit in Oak Park showed “how severe storms and devastating floods continue to impact livelihoods all across Michigan.”

He referred to the extreme weather events seen in recent years as the climate has changed.

“It’s abundantly clear we must act now to ensure our nation’s infrastructure can withstand these natural disasters and protect our communities,” Peters said.

The STORM Act would ensure Michigan’s infrastructure is built to safeguard lives and livelihoods from natural disasters, he added, as he and local officials urged the U.S. House to pass the bill.

McClellan said in a statement after Peter’s visit that she supports Peters’ STORM Act.

“Senator Peters’ work will not only help safeguard countless Michiganders,” she said, “but ensure that local communities  with limited resources do not have to burden residents with higher fees to pay for resilience projects.”

McClellan told FOX2 News that the infrastructure in Oak Park is from 65 to100 years old and needs to be replaced, but the city lacks the funds to do that on its own. 

“It’s a million dollars a mile to fix this stuff,” she said, adding there are 120 miles of underground water-sewer pipes and related infrastructure.

Mitigating the effect of natural disasters is more cost effective than only responding to them after they happen, according to a news release from Peter’s office. 

Studies show that spending on resilience and mitigation projects saves taxpayers $6 for each $1 invested.

Nash said in a statement he is hopeful Peter’s infrastructure bill will soon pass in the U.S. House.

“Extreme flooding and weather continue to severely impact residents right here in Oak Park,” Nash said. “It’s clear our communities need to upgrade our infrastructure to better handle these severe storms and protect residents from floods.”

Peters’ STORM Act would allow local governments to invest in mitigation projects against shoreline erosion, rising water levels and other natural disasters. Communities could get the low-cost loans much quicker than existing grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, according to his news release.

By:  Mike McConnell
Source: The Oakland Press