Tweaked flood plan saves 9 buildings in Ellicott City’s west end

Nine buildings in the west end of Ellicott City, Maryland, will not need to be demolished due to a change in Howard County’s plans to keep floodwaters off Main Street.

On Thursday, County Executive Calvin Ball announced the North Tunnel, which was initially envisioned to run from Parking Lot F down to the Patapsco River, will be extended almost a mile, to the 8800 block of Frederick Road.

“At least nine buildings previously slated for demolition, including the old Earlougher’s Tavern, where we stand today, will now be saved,” Ball said.

“This is a significant change to our plan, but one that achieves the goals we have always set out to achieve,” said Ball. “Less water on the street, fewer buildings that need to be removed, and most importantly, a safer town for all.”

Shortly after taking office, Ball announced a $140 million plan to minimize flooding along Main Street in the historic former mill town. The town was devastated by two 100-year floods in 2016 and 2018.

Extending the tunnel will negate the need for other aboveground safety improvements that were initially planned — Ball said changing the plan is “cost-neutral.”

Mark DeLuca, deputy director of public works for the county government, said the county “plans to maintain” the buildings it has already purchased.

After the flood mitigation projects are completed, DeLuca said the county will decide what to do with the buildings.

“We would just like to see them return back to residential structures, realizing of course they do exist in a 100-year flood plain,” DeLuca said.

Ball said the county would need “several easements” in order to be able to extend the tunnel. He said affected home and property owners will be contacted in coming months.

DeLuca said he expects fewer homeowners will be affected than originally anticipated, because much of the work is below ground.

“With the tunnel, there are subterranean easements, so we may be 50 to 125 feet below any structure we may pass under,” DeLuca said.

Ball and DeLuca said they hope loans applied for under the Environmental Protection Agency’s Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act will pay for the tunnel extension.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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