Howard County’s plan to reduce flooding in Ellicott City under the microscope

An independent review of Howard County’s plan to protect Ellicott City, Maryland, from future floods has gotten a good grade.

Howard County asked the Army Corps of Engineers to take a look at the plan, which was created after the deadly and devastating floods of 2016 and 2018.

“I’m very pleased to announce the Army Corps affirmed that we are following a sound process with regard to planning our flood mitigation efforts,” said County Executive Calvin Ball, opening a public meeting on the review Monday evening.

“The measures considered by the county can effectively reduce flooding for Ellicott City,” said Army Corps of Engineers Project Manager Andrew Layman when delivering a presentation on their review at a public meeting Monday night.

The Corps looked at dozens of options for flood mitigation, including those in the city’s plan, and ranked them by expected effectiveness.

“The County’s plan includes many of the top measures as the Corps team had identified,” Layman concluded.

At the top of the list was the north tunnel project. The project would create a tunnel beneath the city to carry floodwaters to the Patapsco River instead of flowing through Main Street and causing destruction.

In addition to measures the county is already working on, the Army Corps of Engineers offered other ideas, which included installing small flood walls through downtown and deepening the channels already in and around the city. Layman admitted those all come with challenges, such as possible impacts on current structures and traffic in the downtown area.

Laymen said there is no cure-all to the flooding issue in Ellicott City and there’s always a risk the city will experience flooding in the future.

“Howard County should continue to pursue things like additional acquisition of properties (in the most flood-prone areas), flood proofing of buildings, flood warning systems and evacuation planning, as these are sound ways to further reduce risk,” he said.

When asked about progress on the north tunnel project, and the Maryland Avenue project, a similar tunnel system to divert water in the lower area of the city, Howard County Public Works Director Mark DeLuca said he’s not comfortable saying they will be completed by 2025.

“The time line for the tunnel and Maryland Avenue — around five-year implementation, if we can keep it on track, keep it on schedule. There are a lot of things that can derail it.”

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