House Passes Senators Peters, Johnson, Stabenow, Lankford and Rep. Craig Bipartisan Bill to Help Great Lakes Communities Address Shoreline Erosion

WASHINGTON, D.C. –U.S. Senators Gary Peters (D-MI), Ranking Member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI), Chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and James Lankford (R-OK) applauded House passage of their bipartisan bill to reduce the risks to communities of natural disasters, such as flooding, rising water levels and shoreline erosion. The bill, which passed the Senate earlier this week and was led in the House by U.S. Representative Angie Craig (D-MN-02), would provide support for local communities facing increasing number of natural disasters due to climate change 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, Minnesota and across the country are facing serious flooding and high water level challenges that have destroyed homes and beaches and have even forced residents to relocate. The Safeguarding Tomorrow through Ongoing Risk Mitigation (STORM) Act would establish loans that local governments could access to help mitigate the impact of 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 want to thank Congresswoman Craig for leading this bipartisan, commonsense legislation through the House and urge the President to sign it as soon as possible so that we can ensure that Michigan’s coastlines remain safe and pristine for generations to come.”

“Current hazard mitigation funds, such as those provided through the Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities program authorized under the Disaster Recovery Reform Act, are made available to communities only after disasters strike,” said Senator Johnson. “These programs that fund hazard mitigation projects are critical, but we also need to focus on building resiliency in communities before they happen. Studies have shown that for every $1 spent on hazard mitigation, $6 is saved in the response and recovery process. This bill will help address and fund projects before disasters strike, saving taxpayer money and decreasing future loss of life and property.”

“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.”

“Natural disasters are unavoidable, but what we can avoid is being unprepared when they strike,” said Senator Lankford. “Every Oklahoman knows how to prepare their family for a disaster; the challenge is actually taking the time to do it. The STORM Act ensures states and local communities take proactive steps now to prepare for disasters. I’m grateful for the House of Representatives’ work to pass this two-part aid program for states so they can quickly act to help small communities affected by disasters, rather than having to wait on the federal government.”

“In recent years, cities and towns in the Second District have experienced some of the most devastating flood seasons in recent memory – threatening Minnesotans’ homes, doing severe damage to public property and costing our local communities millions of dollars in recovery efforts,” said Rep. Craig. “I am incredibly proud that our bill – which will soon be signed into law by President Trump – will allow cities like Red Wing, Jordan and Hastings to invest in resilient infrastructure that will not only protect their communities, but also save countless taxpayer dollars in the years to come.”

“We appreciate the work of Senators Johnson and Peters to ensure passage of the STORM Act in the Senate,” said Chuck Chaitovitz, vice president for environmental affairs and sustainability at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.   “The STORM Act will help develop smart, modern and resilient infrastructure, and now that the bill has passed both houses of Congress, we encourage the President to sign it into law soon.” 

“Congress has prioritized resilient communities by passing the bipartisan STORM Act,” said Tom Smith, Executive Director, American Society of Civil Engineers. “ASCE has been proud to partner with Senate bill sponsors Senator Peters and Johnson to support this legislation, which is an important step towards improving resilience and planning for communities across the country. As civil engineers, we’re thinking about building infrastructure that will last for 50 to 100 years or more. The opportunity to build strategically is now. We call upon President Trump to quickly sign this critical legislation into law so communities can get the resources they need to prepare, adapt and mitigate, and to quickly recover from the next catastrophic storm.”

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.