Ellicott City’s plan to deal with flooding threat

ELLICOTT CITY, Md. — After two back-to-back, devastating floods, the most recent in May of 2018, signs that say “EC Strong” for Ellicott City still appear in storefront windows.

On Thursday, Howard County Executive Calvin Ball announced a plan to help historic Ellicott City deal with the threat of flooding.

Ball held a news conference in an upstairs room at Tersiguel’s restaurant on Main Street, where he explained that, as a younger man, he’d saved up money to take his then-girlfriend, now his wife, out to dinner.

“This is a special place, and we will continue to always protect it,” he said.

Ball made clear his commitment to ensuring that Ellicott City remains a draw, a vibrant community, and a tourist destination for the county.

Ball announced a three-part program he’s calling “Safe And Sound.” The first component involves negotiating with owners of the most vulnerable properties to acquire their buildings and consider future plans for those structures. The second will call for establishing a more robust early warning system, with new technology to alert residents during severe weather. The third would increase the frequency of inspections of nine waterways in order to remove debris to prevent flooding.

While noting plans proposed by the previous administration, Ball said, “We have great respect for the hard work that went into the previous flood mitigation plan, however we are continuing to explore options that consider the desire by many to retain as much of old Ellicott City’s charm, culture and history while balancing that important need for public safety.”

Ball’s plan is designed to avoid large scale demolition of flood-prone properties.

“That is why I’ve directed our Department of Public Works to explore flood mitigation options that do not require full scale demolition. We must make sure we are not using a sledgehammer when only a scalpel is necessary” he said.

He also proposed creating a community development corporation.

“CDC’s exist all over the state, including in Frederick County,” Ball said. He also proposed creating a position within the county’s economic development authority to act as an ombudsman for main street businesses.

“This individual will help promote tourism on Main Street and will assist business partners with any aspect of their business, including connecting them with existing resources at the local, state and federal level,” he said.

Ball also said he’d work with the county delegation to Annapolis to push for state support.

“I have a good sense of where we have been and where we need to go to make Ellicott City safe and sound and to safeguard the heart of our community and our county,” said Delegate-elect Courtney Watson, who previously served on the county council.

Watson said she’d be working on state legislation to bring more state funding to flood mitigation efforts.

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