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Ellicott City Flood Mitigation Plan


  • To read the five year flood mitigation plan click here.

  • To read the FAQs click here (for a pdf) or continue scrolling down this page.


County Council Legislative Public Hearing on Ellicott City Flood Mitigation Plan, held Monday, September 17, 2018.


 

Flood Mitigation Plan

Howard County Executive Allan H. Kittleman and Councilmember Jon Weinstein provided a detailed presentation to the Howard County Council of their five-year strategy to mitigate flooding in Ellicott City.  The presentation was made at the conclusion of the Council’s legislative session on Tuesday, September 4, 2018.



Flood Mitigation Announcement, August 23, 2018 

Howard County Executive Allan H. Kittleman and Councilmember Jon Weinstein announced a five-year strategy to mitigate flooding in Ellicott City, including a core component that would address the most immediate life safety threat on the town’s lower Main Street within one year. 




Ellicott City Historic Structures Review Committee

Meetings

September 17, 2018

Agenda     Minutes

Flood Mitigation Plan FAQ

What are the guiding principles for this plan?

The guiding principles for this flood mitigation plan were articulated by County Executive Allan Kittleman and Councilmember Jon Weinstein at the Town Hall on June 28, 2018 and the County Council presentation on September 4, 2018. 

They are as follows:

  • Protect Lives - Too many lives have already been lost due to the recent devastating flooding in Ellicott City. Mitigating the life safety risk for residents, business and property owners, as well as visitors to the town, must be the top priority.
  • Continue to Engage the Community - Efforts to date, including the Ellicott City Master Plan and the Hydrologic and Hydraulic Analysis, have received substantial community input and feedback, and any efforts moving forward will seek to continue to engage the community in a collaborative, open and transparent fashion.
  • Make Economically Sound Investments - Investments made in Ellicott City must yield the largest impact per dollar.
  • Safeguard the Environment - The environment that serves as such an important visual and natural asset to Ellicott City must be protected.
  • Preserve Historic Character - The town of Ellicott City and its character must be preserved for generations to come, and changes will have to be made to adapt to the changing weather patterns that contribute to the new future now faced.

What studies were done to inform this plan?

Since 2011, the County has had multiple studies conducted by engineers and industry experts. To read all previous studies, go to: https://www.howardcountymd.gov/Departments/Ellicott-City-Flood-2018/Previous-Studies 
In 2012, the County commissioned McCormick Taylor to study the Hudson Branch. McCormick Taylor is a national leader in the stormwater management field. Additionally, the County hired S&S Planning and Design for a stream corridor assessment.
Following the 2016 flood, the County re-engaged McCormick Taylor to conduct the most comprehensive flood study ever completed in the Tiber-Hudson Watershed. 
The 5-year Ellicott City Flood Mitigation Plan is based on the data collected and analyses conducted both before and after the July 30, 2016 flood. 

When did discussions about Ellicott City flood mitigation start?

Discussions about flooding and flood mitigation in Ellicott City have been held practically since the town was built. During the last five decades, there have been numerous conversations about flood mitigation. 
In August 1976, a Murphy/Williams study offered mitigation options in the wake of the Hurricane Agnes flood of 1972.
In 2012, the County held a public forum (charette) where the community brainstormed ideas for changes to the town. 
In early 2015, within months of taking office, County Executive Kittleman and Councilmember Weinstein made this a more public process when they established the Historic Ellicott City Flood Work Group. The group brought together residents, business leaders and other stakeholders to explore ways to mitigate flooding.  
Following the 2016 flood, Executive Kittleman established the Community Advisory Group (CAG).  The CAG was led by former County Executive Jim Robey and included representatives of local organizations, businesses, residents and the faith-based community. The CAG held 19 public meetings between August 2016 and January 2017.
During this time, the community provided input online and at four large public forums. In all, the public submitted 315 project ideas that were prioritized by the CAG and were also considered during the Master Plan process.

What opportunities are there for public input?

The County Council held a presentation on the budget amendment for funding the initial phase of the plan on September 4, 2018. The Council held a session for public testimony on September 17, 2018. 
The Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) met September 6, 2018 to discuss the plan, accept public testimony and provide advisory comments.  Any request that would require additional HPC review will include an opportunity for public testimony. 
The Ellicott City Master Plan, as well as the 5-year Ellicott City Flood Mitigation Plan, was presented at a public meeting on September 12, 2018.  On October 25, 2018, a Master Plan workshop will be held to gather public input on new key elements of the plan. 

Are there plans for flood mitigation projects higher in the watershed?

The 5-year plan includes two essential elements. One is increasing the retention of water higher up in the watershed. The second will expand the capacity of the stream channels.  Both will significantly reduce the destructive force of water running through the town. 

The Upstream projects include: 
  • Ellicott Mills Culvert Expansion
  • a 13-Acre-Feet Retention Facility at US29/Rt40 Interchange
  • a 10-Acre-Feet Retention Facility at Rogers Avenue
  • 8600 Main Street Culvert Expansion (I.e. Hudson Bend)

Also, the County will continue to further evaluate the potential of adding retention facilities known as T1 and NC3, described in the 2016 Hydrologic and Hydraulic analysis. 
An acre foot of water is equivalent to the amount of water that would cover an acre of land at a foot high. As an example, a foot of water on Lot F would be approximately 1-acre foot. 

Will the plan have an impact on the B&O Museum?

The widening of the channel will significantly slow the velocity of water traveling down the hill.  This will help protect the B&O Museum.  
With the addition of two 10-foot culverts under Maryland Avenue, the water will be diverted further downstream into the Patapsco River, further protecting the museum. 

Were other plans considered?

Many plans were considered and four primary plans emerged. For those four plans, models were developed. In each case, data collected from the July 30, 2016 storm was used and the models assume a worst-case scenario. 
The four models are listed below:
  • Open First Floor

    This option was intended to preserve the building structures by opening the first floor for water to flow more naturally from Main Street into the stream channel. However, modeling showed the potential for debris catching on the supports of the buildings and could push additional floodwater onto Main Street. It does not adequately reduce the risks that currently exist, as the water depth along lower Main Street still exceeds 8 feet in some areas.

  • Culvert in Lower Main Street 

    Consideration was given to the potential of keeping the existing buildings and adding a culvert down the middle of lower Main Street. There were significant concerns, such as constructability challenges, the amount time Main Street would have to be closed and the potential for damage to additional historical structures.
      The result provides limited reductions in floodwaters on Main Street, as the majority of water on lower Main Street would remain at 6 to 8 feet.

  • Eliminating the rear portions of buildings that span the river 

    The County explored keeping the front portions of the structures facing Main Street. The backs of these building that span the Tiber River would have to be removed. In this scenario, the majority of water on lower Main Street ranges from 4 to 8-plus feet. The life safety risks remain with these water depths.

  • Expanded Stream Channel

    This scenario shows a significant reduction in the floodwaters compared to existing conditions and demonstrates the greatest reduction in water depth, water velocity and the risk to life safety. This option calls for the removal of the 10 buildings that span the Tiber River and obstruct its flow, allowing the widening of the stream channel. In this plan, the water velocity is approximately 4.5 feet per second – a significant reduction from the conditions that existed during the July 30, 2016 flood with water velocity around 11.1 feet per second.

Why was the expanded stream channel plan selected?

The expanded stream channel model was chosen because it demonstrated the greatest reduction in water depth, water velocity and the risk to life safety. Information on each of the models can be found online at: https://www.howardcountymd.gov/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=A3KL4ZSavCg%3d&portalid=0 
Expanding stream channels combined with the strategic removal of several buildings will eliminate critical chokepoints in the West End, as well as the area just east of the confluence of the New Cut Branch with the Tiber-Hudson branches on the lower end of Main Street down to the Patapsco River. 

Will building continue in other areas of the Ellicott City watershed?

Council Bill 56, introduced by Councilmember Jon Weinstein, was passed by the County Council in July 2018 and then signed into law the same day by County Executive Allan Kittleman. The law prohibits the issuance of permits, approvals of development plans, and zoning changes for properties that drain into the Tiber Branch or the Plumtree Branch watersheds for one year. 
This moratorium will allow the County to implement the 5-year Ellicott City Flood Mitigation Plan and study additional options to preserve public health, safety, and welfare. The law requires the departments of Planning and Zoning and Public Works, and other County agencies to study past, present and future land use policies, drainage infrastructure, stormwater management, flood mitigation, and all other factors related to flooding.
Documents related to the law can be found online at: https://apps.howardcountymd.gov/olis/LegislationDetail.aspx?LegislationID=3118 

Did the County speak with business and property owners before announcing the plan?

Yes. Several residential and commercial property owners approached the County in the days following the May 27, 2018 flood and asked if the County would be interested in purchasing their properties. Upon hearing this, the County reviewed the potential flood mitigation impacts of acquiring certain properties. Based on this analysis, additional discussions were held with business and property owners that would provide the most immediate impact.

What can be done to save parts of our history?

The County Executive signed an executive order on August 23, 2018 creating the Ellicott City Historic Structures Committee to advise the County on what key historical elements of the town should be preserved so that they may be re-used in some capacity. 
The executive order can be found online at: https://www.howardcountymd.gov/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=AQrmKG2zP2c%3d&portalid=0  

How will the County fund this 5-year plan?

Currently, the County Council is considering bills that would transfer funds from other projects to provide funding for the first phase of the plan. 
Moving forward, the County intends to fund this plan through a combination of local, state and federal dollars and is continuing to work with its partners at all levels of government to secure additional funds.  

How many community meetings have been conducted to discuss Historic Ellicott City flood mitigation?

Within months after taking office, County Executive Kittleman and Councilmember Weinstein established the Historic Ellicott City Flood Work Group. The group was formed to make recommendations on how to best deal with choke points in the river and what infrastructure improvements would help mitigate flood damage.  This group has met 29 times. 
Shortly after the 2016 flood, Executive Kittleman created the Community Advisory Group (CAG). This panel included representatives of local organizations, businesses, residents and the faith-based community. The CAG held 19 meetings between August 2016 and January 2017.
The County received community input on thoughts for the future through an online portal and at four large public forums. The public submitted 315 project ideas that were prioritized by the Community Advisory Group (CAG) and also considered during the Master Plan process.

Will the County develop a more long-term plan and will we need a long-term advisory committee?

The County launched the Ellicott City Master Plan as the 2016 Hydrologic and Hydraulic (H&H) analysis was completed. The Master Plan incorporated the results of the H&H analysis, integrating these with economic, historic, community design and environmental considerations. This 5-year flood mitigation plan will be incorporated into the Master Plan.
The Master Plan will provide a comprehensive community-driven vision for rebuilding a stronger, safer and more resilient Ellicott City. The Master Plan was developed with a high level of engagement, based on the 2016 flood recovery meetings, a series of public workshops and extensive outreach including online surveys. The Master Plan was in final review the week before the May 2018 flood struck.

Why did this plan not happen two years ago?

After the 2016 flood, residents, business owners and property owners rebuilt Ellicott City as quickly as they could because they were eager and determined return to the town, partly because everyone was told at the time it was a "1-in-a-1000 event.”
While the town was rebuilding, the County began implementing mitigation efforts that would take several years to complete. 
Then the 2018 storm changed the conversation. New guidance from the National Weather Service (NWS) indicated that these storms are going to be more frequent, harder to predict and potentially even more deadly everywhere in the region.  In fact, Jim Lee, Meteorologist-in-Charge (MIC) of the National Weather Service Baltimore/Washington Weather Forecast Office, said at a recent County Council hearing that “the old town portion of Ellicott City is the location most at risk for life-threatening weather in our entire forecast area.” That area includes 44 counties in Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Washington D.C. and Baltimore City. 

Why is it necessary to move so quickly?

Protecting lives must be the top priority. The community was hit by two devastating storms in just 22 months. Four people died as a result. Weather experts believe that these storms will become more frequent in the future.  The community does not have the luxury of waiting. 
The initial phase of this plan – the removal of 10 buildings on the lower end – will take about one year to implement. By removing these buildings, the County will be able to widen the Tiber River at the lower end of the watershed to handle the additional water flow from other upstream improvements. This construction is expected to be completed before the end of calendar year 2019. As a result, this plan will significantly reduce the depth and velocity of the water at the lower end of Main Street, protecting lives.

Will any of these plans completely stop flooding along Main Street?

No plan can guarantee that flooding will never occur again. In fact, Ellicott City was founded at that location to harness the power of the water.   
However, this plan will significantly lower the speed and the amount of water that would spill over the river banks during an extreme weather event.  Should a storm similar to what was experienced in 2016 or 2018 occur again, modeling shows that this plan would reduce the water levels to less than 3 feet on lower Main Street and dramatically decrease the destructive force of any flood water.

Which 10 buildings would be removed?

Main Street has changed many times over the years. Buildings have been destroyed by fire or ravaged by previous floods. Others have been razed to make room for newer structures. In many cases, the historic integrity of the buildings have diminished over time. 

  • 8049 Main Street (Phoenix Emporium) –The brick portion of the building was built in the 1850s and a frame portion was added in the 1860s. A second floor was added around the 1920s.
  • 8055 Main Street (Discoveries) – This building was built in the 1930s. This building has been deemed too damaged to repair. 
  • 8059 Main Street (Bean Hollow) – The present building, built in the 1930s, replaced an early frame building that housed the Easton Funeral Home which was built in 1890s.   
  • Tiber Park, Main Street – This site is now a park and not the site of a building to be removed. However, a building on this site was destroyed by fire in 1941 and then rebuilt. Again, another fire destroyed the second building. The County then purchased the property to create Tiber Park. 
  • 8069 Main Street (Great Panes) -- This three-story brick and stone building was built in the 1880s. The stucco facade was added after Hurricane Agnes in 1972.  
  • 8081 Main Street (Tea on the Tiber) – This building, built in 1834, is one of the very few early stone houses with an unaltered exterior. The house has a gable roof, four bay windows and the original stone entry. Discussions are underway with the building owner to potentially preserve and relocate this building.
  • 8085 Main Street (Portalli’s) -- The original building was built in the late 1800s. The brick portion of the building was built in the 1920s, housing a tavern. The interior of the building was rebuilt following a 1999 fire.  
  • 8095/8101 Main Street (Shoemaker Country) – This building was originally built in the 1890s but was destroyed by a 1999 fire that destroyed several buildings along Main Street. It was rebuilt in 2001.
  • 8109-8113 Main Street – These buildings were built in the 1900s. Both received extensive damage after the 2016 flood. These buildings have been deemed too damaged to repair.  
  • 8125 Main Street (Caplan’s) -- Two buildings on this site were built around 1901 but later demolished in 1926 to make way for a new store, Daylight Department Store. The store was named for its large modern windows and skylights. This building has been deemed too damaged to repair. 

What will the time frame be for this project if approved?

Here is rough timeline of the project if work is approved by October 2018. 
  • November 2018-July 2019
    Acquisition/removal of buildings on Lower Main and some of West End; 
    Design and initial construction of Lower Main Open Space
    Design of Hudson Bend
    Construction of West End Culvert Expansion (8600 Block Main)
    Design of Church Street/Court Avenue drainage improvements
  • FY20
    Additional acquisition/removal of West End buildings
    Complete construction of Lower Main Open Space before the end of calendar year 2019
    Complete West End Culvert Expansion (8600 Block Main)
    Design West End Culvert Expansion (8700/8500 Blocks Main)
    Construct Church Street/Court Avenue drainage
    Construct Quaker Mill Retention Facility
  • FY21
    Complete acquisition/removal of West End buildings
    Begin acquisition of Middle Main Street buildings
    Begin first phase of Hudson Bend construction
    Construct West End Culvert Expansion (8700/8500 Blocks Main)
    Construct H7 Retention Facility
  • FY22
    Complete removal of Middle Main Street buildings
    Complete first phase of Hudson Bend construction
    Start second phase of Hudson Bend construction
  • FY23
    Complete construction of second phase of Hudson Bend 

If lower Main Street has to be completed first, why is the County still working on projects on upper Main Street?

The 5-year-plan is a series of projects. The work is being done to take advantage of moments of opportunity to strategically improve the entire system so that all the work can be completed in an expedited 5-year timeframe. 

What is planned for lower Main Street once the properties have been removed? Will the public have an opportunity for input? How long will it take?

Once the buildings are removed, there will be a widened, terraced channel. The final look of the channel will be determined through public input this fall. There will be an Ellicott City Master Plan meeting on the evening of Thursday, October 25, 2018 at the Roger Carter Community Center in Ellicott City to discuss this topic.  A specific time will be announced soon. 
The construction of lower Main Street’s open space will begin in the Spring/Summer of 2019 and is estimated to be completed by the end of the year.