12.18.20

Peters Bipartisan Bill to Help Great Lakes Communities Address Shoreline Erosion Heads to President to be Signed into Law

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Gary Peters (MI), Ranking Member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, applauded House passage of his bipartisan bill to address rising water levels and shoreline erosion. The bill, which passed the Senate earlier this week, would provide support for local communities facing rising water levels, coastal erosion, and flooding that have put homes, property, and communities at risk, and caused millions of dollars in damages. The Safeguarding Tomorrow through Ongoing Risk Mitigation (STORM) Act now heads to the President’s desk to be signed into law.

Communities in Michigan are facing serious shoreline erosion challenges that have destroyed homes and beaches and have even forced residents to relocate. The STORM Act would establish loans that local governments could access to help mitigate the impact of rising water levels, coastal erosion and other damage caused by natural disasters in a more cost-effective way. Studies have shown that resilience and mitigation spending saves taxpayers more than $6 for every dollar invested.

“Providing cost-effective tools directly to local communities across Michigan is critical to helping them stave off the harmful effects that coastal erosion, flooding and rising water levels have on people’s lives and livelihoods,” said Senator Peters. “I urge the President to sign this commonsense, bipartisan legislation as soon as possible so that we can ensure that Michigan’s coastlines remain safe and pristine for generations to come.”

“I have seen firsthand how the coastlines in Michigan have been devastated by flooding and erosion as a result of record high Great Lakes water levels,” said Senator Stabenow. “Our bill provides local governments in Michigan with additional resources to address this issue. This is the type of investment local officials and residents I met with said would help their communities. Now that the STORM Act has passed the House, I urge the President to sign this bipartisan bill.”

The STORM Act would allow the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to fund and help states establish revolving loan funds that could be used by local governments to carry out mitigation projects that reduce natural disaster risk, including shoreline erosion and rising water levels. Unlike existing FEMA grants, these low-interest loans would allow local governments to invest in resiliency and mitigation projects that help reduce loss of life and property, the cost of insurance, and disaster recovery payments. These loans would reach communities more quickly than FEMA’s traditional grants and provide local communities with capital necessary to invest in more resilient infrastructure.

High water levels intensify the impacts of high winds and contribute to shoreline erosion. Along the Great Lakes, rising water levels have already flooded campgrounds and streets, caused boating problems due to submerged structures, and destroyed several beaches and homes. These disasters often cause long-term economic, social, and environmental effects for states and communities, including deaths, injuries, property destruction, and an increased burden on taxpayers. Currently FEMA programs are unable to provide assistance for projects related to sustained high water levels and long-term shoreline erosion. This bill would ensure that communities facing these hazards are eligible for loans to fund such mitigation projects.

Below are statements in support of the Senators’ bipartisan legislation:

“The climate change crisis is already creating strange weather events and excessive rainfall in Michigan,” said Bentley Johnson, Senior Partnerships Manager for the Michigan League of Conservation Voters. “Record-high lake levels are eroding our coasts, swallowing sand dunes and beaches, and threatening communities in many ways. Flooded farm fields are hurting farmers and run-off pollution threatens our sources of drinking water. Local governments must be equipped to combat this crisis, now and in the future, which is why this bill is so important. We applaud Senator Peters' to tackling this crisis head on and advancing a critical tool for Michigan to protect our water, our air and our economy.”

“Rapidly rising water levels have the potential to devastate communities like Traverse City, resulting in road closures, shrinking shorelines and costly damage to private property. Without support and resources from the federal government, there is no clear path forward for many shoreline communities,” said Traverse City Mayor Jim Carruthers. “I’m grateful for Senator Peters’ efforts to provide local governments with the resources they need to address this growing crisis and prepare for a future where high levels are an enduring challenge.”

“Decades of experience living in a flood plain has taught the people of Luna Pier how to best protect our property from rising water levels. The people of our city have come together to address this growing threat, contributing their time, talent, energy and innovative ideas with much success. However, with this new reality of sustained high lake levels, we now need more support in order to effectively solve the problems unique to our region.” said Luna Pier Mayor Jim Gardner. “It is absolutely vital that communities like Luna Pier can quickly and easily access the much-needed funds to invest responsibly in our precious lakeshore communities. I am grateful to Senator Peters for his leadership on this issue and his commitment to protecting the gift we call the Great Lakes.”

“As you are aware, we will know more about the extent of the damage to Alpena’s shoreline and infrastructure as the snow and ice clear,” said Alpena City Manager Rachel Smolinski. “We also need to be prepared for any future damage due to high water, wind, or wave action. Access to a low interest loan through the revolving loan funds established by the STORM Act may be our best option to address these cumulative issues.”

“In recent years, Manistee residents have witnessed firsthand the destructive effects of record high water levels, as Lake Michigan has continued to eat away at our shorelines and inch closer to our homes,” said Manistee City Manager Thad Taylor. “Lakeshore property owners simply do not have the tools and resources to combat this growing problem on their own. I appreciate Senator Peters’ efforts to work with local leaders in delivering a whole-of-government approach to this growing crisis and strongly support this important legislation.”

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