ELLICOTT CITY, MD – Howard County submitted its application for the vital Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) funding from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to finance the Extended North Tunnel and other flood mitigation projects a part of the Ellicott City Safe & Sound plan. If approved, the game-changing loan will cover nearly the entire cost of the Extended North Tunnel, the centerpiece of the transformational flood mitigation plan. The County Council authorized borrowing up to $75 Million in funds through the WIFIA program earlier in 2021. The application is a giant leap for Ellicott City flood mitigation and follows an invitation to apply from the EPA and signals that the EPA intends to fund the projects included in the application, pending a review of detailed financial and engineering information.
Our commitment to keeping Ellicott City Safe & Sound has not wavered, and this critical funding for the now Extended North Tunnel and our other projects paves the way for us to be a national example for implementing flood mitigation efforts for a historic town. I’m encouraged by the progress we’ve made to date – in fewer than three years we’ve already secured more than $56 million to support the Safe and Sound plan and associated flood mitigation and stormwater enhancements in Ellicott City, including more than $20 million in assistance from the State of Maryland and nearly $30 million in County funding.
Howard County is among 55 organizations, nationwide, that were selected to apply for WIFIA funding. The EPA will review the application and perform due diligence regarding credit, legal, and technical aspects of the projects. If approved by the EPA, funds are anticipated to be available in the third quarter of 2022.
The County can be approved by the EPA to borrow up to 49% of the cost of the Safe and Sound Plan through the WIFIA loan program while the remaining 51% of the costs will be funded by a combination of County and other sources.
The WIFIA loan program offers a cost effective way to build transformational projects, with greater flexibility, including longer borrowing terms than the County’s typical 20-year general obligation bonds. The tunnel and other flood reduction measures require multi-year construction, and the WIFIA loan program allows for deferral of repayment for up to five years after construction is complete.
“The federal WFIA loan, in addition to the $18.5 million Senator Hester and I obtained from the state legislature, will be the capstone for the completion of Safe and Sound Plan to enable Ellicott City to prosper another 250 years,” said Delegate Courtney Watson.
Almost immediately after taking office, County Executive Ball announced his Ellicott City Safe and Sound plan, a multi-faceted flood mitigation and economic recovery effort for Ellicott City. In fewer than three years, the Ball Administration has secured over $56 million to support the Safe and Sound plan and associated flood mitigation and stormwater enhancements in Ellicott City, including more than $20 million in assistance from the State of Maryland and nearly $30 million in County funding.
Despite the pandemic, there has been sustained and rapid progress on the flood mitigation efforts within the Safe and Sound plan. In March 2021, County Executive Ball announced the game-changing plans to extend the original North Tunnel to approximately 5,000 feet, which would reduce water on the street, eliminate other projects in the West End, negate the need for demolition of at least nine historic buildings, and be cost neutral.
In August 2021, County Executive Ball was joined by Governor Hogan and local officials to break ground on the critical H7 Flood Mitigation Pond. The needed pond will reduce the amount of water that runs off the site by more than 30 percent in a 100-year storm, keeping more water from flowing to Historic Ellicott City during a severe weather event. The important project is a joint partnership between Howard County and the State of Maryland, which owns the land of the pond site. The pond will cost approximately $3.2 million to construct, and is expected to be completed within 18 months, weather permitting.
Additional upcoming Ellicott City Safe & Sound flood mitigation projects include:
- The groundbreaking of Quaker Mill Pond off Rogers Avenue, another dry flood mitigation facility in Ellicott City.
- Construction of the Maryland Avenue Culvert, pending the completion of the federal section 106 process and receiving CSX approval.
- Renovation of the 6 County-owned buildings on Lower Main Street, including removing portions of the buildings that are over the stream channel.
- Removal of four county-owned buildings at the bottom of Main Street to facilitate construction of the Maryland Avenue Culvert.
- Commencing final design for the extended North Tunnel project.