Senate Passes Peters, Johnson, Stabenow & Lankford Bipartisan Bill to Help Great Lakes Communities Address Rising Water Levels, Shoreline Erosion

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Senate passed a bipartisan bill to address rising water levels and shoreline erosion, led by 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). Introduced earlier this year, the bill 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. 

Communities in Michigan, Wisconsin and across the country are facing serious shoreline erosion 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 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.

“Michigan’s communities around the Great Lakes continue to be threatened by rising water levels, coastal erosion, and flooding that are wreaking havoc on people’s lives and causing damage to public and private property,” said Senator Peters. “I am committed to ensuring that Michiganders and our beautiful coastlines are protected. I am proud that my bipartisan bill has passed the Senate and I will continue to fight to ensure that it is signed into law as soon as possible so we can provide our communities with the cost-effective and commonsense tools needed to mitigate the effects of these natural disasters.”

“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. Our bill provides local governments in Michigan with additional resources to address this issue,” Senator Stabenow. “I want to thank Senator Peters for his leadership to get this bipartisan bill passed in the Senate. This is the type of investment local officials and residents I met with said would help. I will continue to work with them to ensure our coastal communities have what they need.”

“As Oklahomans, we deal with our fair share of natural disasters every year,” said Senator Lankford. “When we lend a helping hand to our neighbors in the aftermath, we often take time to think about how we can be better prepared next time around. This bill will encourage communities to be better prepared and ensure taxpayer dollars are targeted efficiently to those who have prepared for the natural disasters that will inevitability happen.”

“The U.S. Chamber applauds the Senate for unanimously passing the STORM Act last evening,” said Marty Durbin, President of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Global Energy Institute. “The bill offers an important tool to help states reduce risks from future disasters, and supports the business community as it fuels the quality life and prosperity for communities across our nation. Building modern, resilient infrastructure – from roads, bridges, and energy to water systems, waterways, and agriculture – is among our top priorities. We urge swift consideration by the House, and we congratulate Senators Johnson and Peters and Reps. Craig and Davis for their hard work and leadership on this important issue.”

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.