WASHINGTON, D.C. – A bipartisan bill authored by U.S. Senator Gary Peters (MI), the top Democrat on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, to address rising water levels and shoreline erosion in the Great Lakes has been signed into law. The new law provides 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.
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 establishes 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.
“Climate change and high water levels on the Great Lakes are causing serious damage to our shorelines and harming the livelihoods and property of too many Michiganders. Providing our Michigan’s coastal communities with loans so they can build back resiliently will help ensure that our coastlines in Michigan remain safe and pristine,” said Senator Peters. “I am thrilled this bipartisan bill has been signed into law and look forward to continuing my work to help mitigate the effects of this naturally occurring damage.”
I have seen firsthand how record high Great Lakes water levels have hurt coastal communities. This is the type of investment local officials and residents need and it is great news that help is on the way,” said Senator Stabenow.
The STORM Act will 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 Senator Peters’ bipartisan law:
“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.”