Ellicott City Watershed Master Plan

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What's New

NEW DATE: August 12th Virtual Meeting moved to August 19th

 View the Draft Plan and Register for the August 19th Virtual Meeting!


The Virtual Community Meeting previously scheduled for August 12th has been rescheduled for Wednesday, August 19th. If you were registered for the August 12th meeting, please check your inbox for a new webex meeting invitation for August 19th. Didn't register for August 12th (or missing the new invite)? Please register here. Or, plan to watch via livestream (a link will be posted on the day of the meeting on this webpage).

COMMENT WINDOW EXTENDED TO AUGUST 28TH! Read and Comment on the Plan by August 28th!

You are invited to review the draft Ellicott City Watershed Master Plan and provide feedback from now through Friday, August 28th at 5 pm. This comprehensive, long-range document creates a community-driven vision for historic Ellicott City and the Tiber Branch Watershed. Find out how to comment with our User Guide to the draft. Then, either register on our comment platform at hocodpz.konveio.com/ecmp to comment directly on the plan, or submit general comments through the survey form.  

The plan represents the culmination of a multi-year public outreach process that began in response to the 2016 flooding and builds upon County Executive Ball’s “Ellicott City Safe and Sound” flood mitigation plan. The draft master plan establishes goals, desired outcomes and policies for the next twenty years. It also features conceptual illustrations that can serve as inspiration should specific opportunities arise over time.

Participate in the August 19th Virtual Community Meeting! 

Join the Howard County Department of Planning and Zoning virtually on Wednesday, August 19th from 7 pm to 8:30 pm to discuss the public draft Ellicott City Watershed Master Plan! If you plan to attend please REGISTER HERE. Scroll down for instructions on attending/accessing the virtual meeting. 

This meeting is being held to present the draft plan's recommendations, options for commenting, and next steps in the upcoming General Plan Amendment process. Following County staff presentations, there will be a brief Q&A period during which attendees can ask questions about the presentation. Attendees are also welcome to email questions about the plan or planning process in advance or after the meeting to Kate Bolinger at kbolinger@howardcountymd.gov. During the meeting, please email questions to planning@howardcountymd.gov

REGISTRATION INSTRUCTIONS - How to Access the Virtual Meeting

The meeting will be held via WebEx videoconferencing services. All participants will be on mute until the end of the presentation. Please REGISTER HERE to attend the meeting. Depending upon the technology available to you, below are two ways to attend and participate in the meeting: 

Option 1: Attend via WebEx
This is the recommended means of participation if you can use WebEx videoconferencing services on your computer. You will be able to see and hear the panelist and ask questions via the WebEx chat feature or by raising your "virtual hand" during the Q&A period. If you raise your hand, the moderator will call on your name and you will be unmuted when it is your turn to speak. 
** Please see the WebEx Technical Guidance link for additional instructions on how to participate via WebEx. 

Option 2: Watch Meeting Livestream
If you are unable to use WebEx on your computer, you can watch the meeting livestreamed. A link to the livestream will be posted on this webpage the day of the meeting. You will be able to see and hear the panelists; however, will not be able to speak during the meeting. However, if you would like to ask a question during the meeting, you may email your question to planning@howardcountymd.gov

What if I Can't Access the Meeting from a Computer? I

f you do not have access to a computer, please contact DPZ at (410) 313-2350 or email planning@howardcountymd.gov to request curbside pickup of meeting materials after the August 19th meeting. Please call or email in advance and wear a mask.



COVID-19 Statement: Howard County is committed to providing community services and continuing government operations during the COVID-19 pandemic. DPZ is working to identify industry best-practices to ensure that all stakeholders may participate in a meaningful and safe manner. 

For the Ellicott City master plan, remaining summer milestones in the outreach process include: 

  • 30-day public comment period on the draft plan - Now through August 28th at 5 pm! See the User Guide for ways to comment
  • Draft plan virtual community meeting on August 19th - REGISTER NOW
  • Virtual Master Plan Advisory Team meeting - Date/time coming soon!
  • Virtual advisory session with the Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) - August 6th - Learn more at the HPC webpage
  • Virtual session with the Planning Board - August 20th - details will be posted on the Planning Board webpage

Later in the year, the adoption process will continue with a Planning Board meeting and legislative adoption by the County Council. The progression of the pandemic, and best practices from public health experts, will influence whether these events occur virtually or in-person with physical distancing measures.   

Frequently requested materials and links: 

  1. Ellicott City Watershed Master Plan Draft (Full Document - 20 MB)
  2. ECSafeandSound.org
  3. October 15, 2019 Workshop Presentation
  4. March 2018 Master Plan Public Workshop Slides (Draft Concepts as of March 2018) 
  5. Video of the May 31, 2017 Master Plan Kickoff and Hydrology & Hydraulics ("H&H") Presentation
  6. Hydrology & Hydraulics ("H&H") Study

Howard County launched its master plan process for Ellicott City and its watershed in 2017 with the goal of defining a comprehensive, community-driven vision for rebuilding a stronger and more resilient Ellicott City. The process has incorporated a watershed plan in a way that many traditional master plans do not. Ellicott City's unique topography, hydrology, road network, and mill town heritage will require a tailored, well-planned roadmap for long-term rebuilding. 

Our team of consultants, Department of Planning and Zoning staff, and representatives from multiple county agencies have collaborated to prepare the draft plan. The document is the result of both the project team’s technical expertise and public input collected through many events following the 2016 flood. Supporting technical material and reports associated with the planning effort are available on this webpage. 


Project Schedule as of 2019 (subject to change)

Plan Background

Plan Background at Master Plan Launch - May 31, 2017: On July 30, 2016, Ellicott City experienced devastating flooding when nearly six inches of rain fell in less than two hours. This flash flood claimed two lives, significantly damaged dozens of businesses and displaced many residents. While Ellicott City has experienced many flood events through its 250-year history, the destruction caused by the 2016 flood was the worst in recent memory.

Following the flood, the overarching goal was to return Ellicott City to normalcy as quickly and affordably as possible. During the recovery phase, Howard County effectively worked to stabilize Ellicott City and repaired and replaced damaged infrastructure; in some cases in a utilitarian fashion (i.e., asphalt was poured on damaged sidewalk areas instead of concrete or brick replacement). Merchants, business owners, residents, and many others worked tirelessly to clean up and rebuild. On November 26, these efforts culminated with an official grand reopening and ribbon cutting on Main Street. While Main Street is open, safe and functional, many rebuilding decisions have been postponed until long-term planning efforts are completed.

An engineering consultant was hired to take a fresh look at the entire Ellicott City watershed. The consultant's findings were presented at the May 31 master plan kickoff meeting, and summarized in the 2016 Ellicott City Hydrology/Hydraulic Study report (also known as the "H&H" study). The H&H study is an unprecedented, comprehensive analysis of the Tiber-Hudson watershed. The analysis modeled how certain water retention controls and channel enhancements would reduce the amount of flooding on Main Street in various storm conditions. The results of the hydrologic and hydraulic study, and the dynamic model it created, have been used as a touchstone throughout the master plan process to help guide decisions, set planning parameters, and test choices. 

Plan Background as of November 2018: The master plan was nearing its final phase - the delivery of a draft plan - when the May 27, 2018 flood hit. The draft master plan vision, which remains relevant, stated: "Ellicott City and its watershed is a model, resilient community that thrives by protecting its people, commerce, history, culture and natural environment."

Prior to May 27, the master plan process included the presentation of several draft concepts to the community. Originally, master plan concepts would be recommended as near, medium or longer-term projects. These concepts, presented in March, included a major flood conveyance improvement called "Hudson Bend," a daylit, widened, terraced stream channel spanning from Court Avenue through Lot D.

Following the May 2018 flood, it became a priority to develop an accelerated concept for flood mitigation. The master plan process was paused and the previous five-year plan for flood mitigation developed. Master plan concepts were then developed in response. However, the master plan was again paused following the 2018 election to allow for the new administration to take office. Alternative flood mitigation options were then explored under County Executive Ball's Safe and Sound plan.

About the Consultant Team

Mahan Rykiel Associates (MRA) is a Baltimore landscape architecture, urban design, and planning firm. Their portfolio includes downtown revitalization, streetscape and transportation enhancements, park and open space design, hospitality/retail design, healthcare design and campus planning. With 33 years of experience and a staff of 47, MRA services clients in the U.S. and in more than 30 countries around the globe. MRA has specific expertise related to urban design including downtown revitalization master plans for small to mid-size communities as well as detail design and construction expertise for streetscapes, parks and plazas in both contemporary and historic urban environments. In particular, MRA is committed to the “Main Street” approach of downtown revitalization and have worked in over 30 Main Street Communities in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Wisconsin, Virginia, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi. Their implementation work considers the broader context of the project and our planning work is done with an eye toward implementation. MRA has prepared design and construction drawings for numerous urban streetscapes and open spaces. MRA will lead this effort with support from the following subconsultants.

RK&K will provide civil and structural engineering as well as watershed planning, hydrology and hydraulic expertise and architectural and cultural resources support. At RK&K, they understand that resilience is the ability of a community to maintain its functions in the face of changing circumstances, such as aging infrastructure, localized and nuisance flooding, natural disasters and climate change. RK&K’s team of interdisciplinary experts identify risks, quantify probability of occurrence and potential impacts, develop adaptation strategies, and will help Howard County implement cost-effective and sustainable real-world solutions. They have developed customizable frameworks that provide tools, services, and specialized expertise for master plan and flood control efforts for Federal, State and local agencies.

Arnett Muldrow & Associates is a planning, preservation, economic development, community marketing, and branding firm based in Greenville, South Carolina and Milford, Delaware. Over fifteen years, Arnett Muldrow has worked in over 450 small to medium sized communities (as well as neighborhoods within cities) to enhance their downtowns, tell the story of revitalization, and develop practical and implementable strategies to foster economic prosperity. The firm has deep roots in Maryland and has worked in seven communities throughout the state, five within the Baltimore metropolitan area. Arnett Muldrow is eager to play a role in assessing the market conditions and developing marketing strategies that capitalize on the brand for the district to communicate with customers and investors. A particular skill that Arnett Muldrow brings is experience with communities impacted by flooding. The firm has worked with nine Vermont communities impacted by flooding from Tropical Storm Irene and eleven communities in Mississippi with flooding impacts from Hurricane Katrina.

Land Studies will provide Watershed Planning Support. Since 1995, Land Studies has led efforts in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed to implement Watershed Planning in Pennsylvania with the first comprehensive Watershed Planning and Restoration program for Lilitz Run. This EPA National Showcase Watershed approach blends technical understanding with community based planning that identifies key locations where regional benefits can be realized. Over the years, they have fine-tuned the approach with new technologies continuing to help scores of communities improve water quality and provide flood hazard mitigation through the implementation of our branded “Economic Ecology,” a systems-based approach that provides incentives for smart growth while measurable improving the environment.

SouthCoastConsulting will help with funding and implementation strategies. The firm was created in 2003 to assist nonprofits and municipalities in the complex process of strategic planning and resource identification. SouthCoastConsulting has established relationships in the funding community and brings a fresh perspective to our community clients. Following Hurricane Katrina in 2005, SouthCoastConsulting worked through the state and local governments to move coastal downtowns through the recovery, rebuilding and renewal.

Preservation Consulting is a historic preservation firm with specific projects within Patapsco River Valley, and specifically this watershed and an established working relationship with DPZ preservation staff and Historic Preservation Commission.

Public Engagement Associates was founded in 2014 to engage citizens in decisions that impact their lives.  All of our founding members have broad experience working on projects that have effectively engaged thousands of people in the Washington, DC area and around the country.   In particular, all of our associates are trained in the innovative methods pioneered by AmericaSpeaks, which combines technology with small group dialogue to produce clear priorities and recommendations from citizens and stakeholders. PEA has helped to organize significant public engagement efforts throughout the country during the past 20 years, including: Responding to Disasters: bringing thousands of people together to respond to the disasters of both 9-11 and Katrina; Region-Wide Involvement: coordinating citizen involvement in a major economic revitalization effort in NE Ohio; and Youth Development: helping Charlotte, NC and other cities set priorities for actions to help improve education and foster positive youth development.

Team Members:  

Mahan Rykiel Associates:    

Tom McGilloway, Principal in Charge, Project Manager, Planning, Landscape Architecture, Urban Design. Tom has over 33 years of experience as a landscape architect working in towns ravaged by natural disasters such as the Mississippi Gulf Coast where he provided urban design services to nine communities.

Andy Kalback, Urban Design and Illustration

Megan Griffith, Planner

Jeff Dube, Landscape Designer 


John D’Epagnier, Site Development Director