Senate proposes $ 300 million loan fund for cities struggling with Great Lakes flooding

Congress will have an opportunity to weigh a bill that would provide Michigan’s waterfront communities access to $ 300 million in a low-interest revolving loan fund.

The effort is significant, said U.S. Senator Gary Peters, as rising water levels and coastal erosion in the Great Lakes pose what he called a great threat to many riparian communities.

“(The forecast is for) record water levels in the coming months that will continue to put roads, homes and businesses and, quite frankly, entire cities at risk from flooding and damage,” Peters said. during a media call.

In short, he added, “Michigan’s coastal communities are facing a crisis. “

Peters (D-MI) and Ron Johnson (R-WI) presented bipartite legislation, called Safeguarding Tomorrow through Ongoing Risk Mitigation, or STORM. The Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee unanimously approved the legislation this week. The bill is now heading to the entire Senate for consideration.

The bill would help any community affected by shoreline flooding. It’s a national concern, Peters said.

“As the climate changes, you’re going to see all of these systemic changes in what we’ll see with larger weather events,” he said. “We know we have to prepare.

But that’s especially important in the Great Lakes Basin, where ongoing high water threatens to set new records in 2020.

Four of the five Great Lakes set new monthly water level records in February. Lake Michigan and Lake Huron smashed their February water level record by half a foot. Lake Erie began its seasonal rise in February, adding four inches of water between January and February. Even though Lake Superior fell three inches from January to February 2020, Lake Superior still set a new record water level last month.

Meanwhile, Michigan officials estimated long-term repairs to state infrastructure in February at hundreds of millions of dollars due to erosion damage. This included $ 100 million for roads, ranging from I-75 near Monroe to the shore access road in the Porcupine Mountains on the Upper Peninsula. In between, roads and bridges are underwater or at risk of collapsing as waves push water onto the roadway.

Related: Fixes for record water levels expected to come with a steep price tag for Michigan

In addition to state-owned lands and systems, municipalities also face challenges as Great Lakes water levels cause city-owned beaches to disappear. Other damage includes water intakes, storm sewers, non-motorized trails and parks.

Peter said STORM would appropriate $ 100 million over three years, starting in 2021, bringing communities’ access to $ 300 million.

Peters said the loan fund – likely offered at a 1% interest rate, although it is up to the rule-making to finalize the details – will increase the efficiency of municipalities “at repairing existing damage and plan for future needs “.

He estimated that every dollar spent preparing for rising lake levels will save taxpayers $ 6 in repair costs.

The fund would not be available to individual owners on the shore, Peters said.

“Every community is different. Some are better prepared than others, ”said Peters. “They all need the resources and don’t have the money to put these things in place. “

The bill is supported by the United States Chamber of Commerce and several other national municipal advocacy groups.

“The Mississippi Valley alone suffered more than $ 2 billion in actual losses in 2019 from a single disaster,” according to the chamber letter. “The Great Lakes region has also seen record water levels, causing erosion, flooding and damage to dikes and roads and putting communities at risk. We must act now on durable solutions.

Related stories:

Lakes Superior, Michigan, Huron and Erie all set new water level records in February

“It’s time to act” to save seaside homes from the high waters of the Great Lakes

MichMash: How Falling Homes in the Great Lakes Impact All of Michigan

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