New federal law opens low-interest loans for coastal communities struggling with floods and erosion

A federal bill has been enacted that allows states struggling with high water levels and erosion to create revolving loan funds for coastal mitigation projects.

The STORM Act – sponsored by US Senator Gary Peters, D-Michigan – allows the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to fund programs that would be open to states and local governments for projects that help combat coastal erosion from high water, which has been particularly difficult along the shores of Lake Michigan for the past two years.

Local governments could invest the low-interest loans in projects that reduce the risk of property losses and higher insurance rates while helping disaster recovery.

Officials say the loans would reach communities faster than traditional FEMA loans.

“Climate change and high water levels on the Great Lakes are causing serious damage to our shores and harming the livelihoods and property of too many Michigan residents,” Peters said in a statement. “Providing loans to Michigan’s coastal communities so they can rebuild resiliently will help ensure our Michigan shores remain safe and pristine. ”

Peters and Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisconsin, introduced the bipartisan Safeguarding Tomorrow through Ongoing Risk Mitigation (STORM) law in mid-March. It was co-sponsored by Senator Debbie Stabenow, D-Michigan, and Senator James Lankford, R-Oklahoma.

President Trump signed the bill on January 1.

According to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the water levels of Lake Michigan and Lake Huron dropped 2 inches from October to November 2020, although November lake levels were 32 inches above the long-term lake average and 7 inches below the record high. Levels are expected to remain 27 to 30 inches above the long-term average over the next six months.

Traverse City Mayor Jim Carruthers said in a statement rapidly rising water levels can potentially “devastate” coastal communities, leading to road closures and damage to property.

“Without the support and resources from the federal government, there is no clear path for many riverside communities,” Carruthers said.

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