February 19, 2019

Media Contact:
Scott L. Peterson, Director of Communications, Office of Public Information, 202-277-9412

ANNAPOLIS, MD – Howard County Executive Calvin Ball this afternoon testified before the House Transportation and Environment Committee in support of House Bill 428 (HB 428) which would authorize the Maryland Department of the Environment to use the comprehensive flood management grant program to award grants to subdivisions that incurred infrastructure damage caused by a flood on or after January 1, 2009. The bill is sponsored by Howard County Delegate Courtney Watson.

“The legislation you are considering today would be a resource for counties and municipalities across the state impacted by severe weather by providing grant funding for infrastructure repairs, debris removal, and emergency protection work associated with a flood event,” Bell told the committee. “This legislation would also allow impacted jurisdictions to use grant funding for flood control and watershed capital projects aimed at reducing the likelihood of another flood event, as well as for automated flood warning projects.”

As a result of two devastating floods that struck Ellicott City in 2016 and 2018, Howard County has spent $38.1 million repairing damaged infrastructure, removing storm debris and completing additional emergency work.

“This is money that was largely unbudgeted. After each storm, the county transferred funds from other priorities to do the work necessary to keep the businesses and residents of Ellicott City safe,” said Ball. “While there are some opportunities to receive reimbursement from federal agencies, including the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Federal Highway Administration, that process can be cumbersome and does not come close to covering the full cost of the destruction.”

Ball’s recently announced Ellicott City Safe and Sound plan – a comprehensive flood mitigation and economic recovery plan for Ellicott City – includes the need for additional flood control and watershed capital projects, as well as an emergency alert system. 
“Due to the nature of severe weather events, emergency managers may have only minutes to alert the public that flash flooding is imminent,” Ball noted. “Automated flood warning systems, such as sirens or voice systems, are critical to ensuring that the public has as much notice as possible and can quickly move to higher ground.”

At Ball’s direction, the Howard County Office of Emergency Management has purchased two temporary speaker arrays that will emit incredibly loud tones when Ellicott City is in danger of flash flooding. These speakers are a temporary solution while the County continues to explore a permanent alert and warning system. 

In addition to county funding, if passed, HB 428 would be one of many sources the County would pursue to assist with funding the new alert system. 

Howard County is one of several jurisdictions that has suffered extreme flooding in recent years. Ball cited Baltimore City, Western Maryland and Frederick as others that have endured similar destructive events. “While this bill would not solve the problem entirely,” he told the delegates, “the grant program that would be created would be incredibly helpful for all the counties in Maryland that deal with flooding.”

Video of the testimony of Watson and Ball can be viewed at https://youtu.be/Zy4v0AJz3t0. Ball’s written testimony can be found at https://bit.ly/2TXPvxS. To read more about the Ellicott City Safe and Sound plan, visit https://www.ecsafeandsound.org

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