08.06.15

Peters Introduces Bill to Support Michigan’s Waterfront Communities

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Gary Peters (MI), a member of the Senate Great Lakes Task Force, announced today that he joined three of his colleagues to introduce a bill to help revitalize waterfront communities, including Michigan towns and cities along the Great Lakes, rivers and inland lakes. The Waterfront Community Revitalization and Resiliency Act will support community efforts to attract water-dependent industries and investments that leverage water sustainably, revitalize neighborhoods and enhance recreation and tourism. Peters joined Senators Tammy Baldwin (WI), Angus King (ME) and Ron Wyden (OR) in introducing this legislation, which will help waterfront communities plan for their future, provide the tools to implement that plan, and help them attract private and nonprofit investment.

“With four of the five Great Lakes at our borders, Michigan’s waterfront communities are part of our state’s identity and way of life,” said Senator Peters. “Helping communities make the most of their local water resources is vital for the long-term health of the Great Lakes and the strength of Michigan’s economy. This bill will help towns and cities along Michigan’s coasts and waterways develop smart, forward-thinking strategies to adapt for the future.”

Many waterfront communities were built around their water resources years ago, and are now working to reposition and overcome issues such as limited public access and poor alignment with modern development. In addition to adapting to economic shifts, waterfront communities are facing pressures to meet increasing demands on water resources; make resilient investments that can withstand weather extremes like storms, floods, and fluctuating lake levels; and adapt to changing ecosystem conditions that range from shoreline erosion to stresses on fisheries.

Waterfront planning and implementation requires communities to navigate intergovernmental hurdles, work across constituent groups and agencies, and secure financing. Despite the economic returns from revitalization and the payoff that resiliency preparation can provide in the long-term, many communities lack the resources to make it from vision to reality.

“We know from our Brookings Institution work that every $1 dollar spent on water restoration, waterfront access, and connection leads to over $3 in economic development and increased property values,” said John Austin, Michigan Economic Center Director and Brookings Institution Nonresident Senior Fellow. “I estimate across the Great Lakes states, more than a million jobs are already linked to water restoration, waterfront redevelopment and recreation.  The Waterfront Community Revitalization and Resiliency Act will help more communities reconnect to their water and grow their “Blue” economies.”

“A vibrant riverfront is critically important to the overall health of Detroit,” said Mark Wallace, President and CEO of the Detroit RiverFront Conservancy. “The transformation of the Detroit Riverfront from an industrial zone to a public greenway has created a great asset for our community and generated $1 billion in public and private investment in the last decade, with $1 billion more projected for the next 10 years.  The Waterfront Community Revitalization and Resiliency Act would support our continued efforts to build a world-class public space along the riverfront and accelerate this type of transformation throughout the Great Lakes region.”

“Michigan’s counties and smaller communities work hard to provide the basic infrastructure needed to keep our waters clean and our waterfronts amenable to both commerce and recreational use,” said Thomas L. Hickner, Bay County Executive and Facilitator of the Saginaw Bay Coastal Initiative. “Our local economies are dependent on revitalizing our sense of place as coastal communities on the nation’s Great Lakes shoreline. We need the assistance that would be provided through the passage of the Waterfront Community Revitalization and Resilience Act, and its passage would find willing partners who are ready to invest at the local level.”

“We are very supportive of the Senator’s efforts, and as a leading community stakeholder, we have firsthand knowledge of how passionately a community will respond to locally driven efforts to enhance, protect and revitalize our waterfront,” said Randy Maiers, President of the Community Foundation of St. Clair County. “Here in the Port Huron area our Foundation has rallied a multitude of local, state and national partners to redevelop and revitalize almost one mile of St. Clair River shoreline. The efforts of Senator Peters would help more communities maximize their waterfront assets.”

The Waterfront Community Revitalization and Resiliency Act aims to solve these issues facing waterfront communities by:

  • Creating a voluntary Resilient Waterfront Community designation within the U.S. Department of Commerce. The designation recognizes communities that adopt a waterfront revitalization and resiliency plan integrating economic, ecosystem, & infrastructure challenges and opportunities.
  • Creating a Grant Program providing funding to develop and implement a Resilient Waterfront Community plan. Grants could be used to advance various projects, such as:
    • Improving waterfront access or acquiring easements from developers for public amenities
    • Making infrastructure upgrades that improve coastal resiliency
  • Establishing a Resilient Waterfront Communities network to support sharing of best practices, highlight Resilient Waterfront Communities, and help attract new investment.
  • Establishing preferred status in other federal grant and loan programs for Resilient Waterfront Communities. Reinvestment and resiliency can reduce long-term costs to taxpayers and spur economic growth. This bill would help projects in Resilient Waterfront Communities move forward more quickly and help maximize the value of federal investments in these communities.

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