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Executive Kittleman, Councilmember Weinstein announce five-year, multifaceted flood mitigation strategy for Ellicott City

Executive Kittleman, Councilmember Weinstein announce five-year, multifaceted flood mitigation strategy for Ellicott City

August 23, 2018

Media Contacts: 
Mark Miller, Administrator, Office of Public Information, 410-313-2022

ELLICOTT CITY, MD – Howard County Executive Allan H. Kittleman and Councilmember Jon Weinstein today 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.

The strategy includes the acquisition and removal of 10 buildings on the south side of Main Street within the next year and the creation of a public open space amenity with a wider, deeper river channel in their place.  The community will be engaged to provide input into the design and use of this new public space through the continuing Ellicott City Master Plan process.

As part of this strategy, at least two additional culverts, each 10 feet in diameter, will be installed beneath Maryland Avenue to carry water from the Tiber-Hudson branches further downstream in the Patapsco River.  The Hudson branch channel under Main Street near Court Avenue will be widened to eliminate a significant pinch point that causes the water to rush out onto upper Main Street during heavy rainfalls.

“The most experienced forecasters are telling us that storms capable of producing these devastating flash floods are becoming more likely in the entire mid-Atlantic region,” said Kittleman.  “Our need to adapt to this likelihood, and our need to first and foremost protect life safety, has changed the conversation.  I wish we weren’t at this point, but this is the change we need.”

The strategy to expand the stream channels will be combined with the construction of three upstream floodwater retention facilities and conveyance improvements:

  • A 13-acre-foot retention pond in the US 29/40 interchange.
  • A 10-acre-foot retention pond along Rogers Avenue. 
  • Significant expansion of the culvert in the 8600 block of Main Street to increase capacity.

“While we can’t entirely prevent flooding during these dramatic storms, this strategy will substantially reduce the height of the floodwaters.  Perhaps more importantly, it will decrease the velocity of the water and its destructive force by 60 percent,” said Weinstein.  “Residents, businesses and property owners tell us that will make a substantial difference.”

The County is also planning to acquire and remove approximately seven residential properties in the town’s West End beyond Ellicott Mills Drive to achieve a similar benefit for that part of the community.

The number of structures that are planned for acquisition and removal comprise 5 percent of the entire Historic District.

“Changes must be made and our town must be envisioned anew after this second catastrophic event,” said Lexi Milani, vice president of the Ellicott City Partnership, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to preserve the heritage and vitality of the historic town. “For me and for the Ellicott City Partnership, the safety of Ellicott City’s residents, employees and guests is absolutely paramount.”

Kittleman named a four-member advisory group to identify key historic features that can be preserved and re-used when the buildings are removed to widen the channel.  The panel includes: Fred Dorsey; Shawn Gladden, Ed Lilley, and Debbie Slack Katz.

The Howard County Economic Development Authority will also continue to assist those impacted businesses find alternate locations.

In the Valley Mede community north of U.S. Route 40 in Ellicott City, Kittleman said the County is engaged in ongoing discussions with several residents who have been most impacted by recent flooding.  It’s possible the County could purchase their homes as well, in addition to adding stormwater improvements there.

Kittleman and Weinstein estimated the plan for Ellicott City’s Main Street will cost approximately $40-$50 million.  The County is hopeful it will receive financial and technical assistance from the state and federal governments.  Damage just to public infrastructure from the 2016 and 2018 floods totaled nearly $32 million.

“We have all endured a lot over the past years but we continue to fight because Old Ellicott City means so much to us,” said Simon Cortes, owner of La Palapa Restaurant. “I don’t want anyone else to lose their life or continue risking so much.”

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