Maryland Speaker of the House Mike Busch declared Thursday the Annapolis government would be receiving an additional $1.25 million in capital funding for its flood mitigation plans, bringing the city’s total up to $2 million in the upcoming budget.
The changes have not been made official in the budget, but the speaker said he talked to the appropriate legislative leaders to guarantee the money when the state budget is passed later this month.
“I just want to assure the citizens of Annapolis … I’m going to produce the $1.25 million for flood mitigation,” Busch said.
Busch’s declarative statement on the money is backed up both by his position as Speaker of the House and the ability of the General Assembly to add money to the capital budget within parameters set by the Spending Affordability Committee’s recommendations. This committee recommends a certain amount of allowable debt and spending that also allows the state to keep its high bond ratings.
There is about $80 million dollars of capital spending wiggle room, which could be added to the budget given the will of lawmakers.
Busch’s decision comes just a day after high tides from a winter storm shut down Compromise, Dock and Newman streets Wednesday morning. Traffic backed up on Spa Creek Bridge which led to the bridge barricaded on the downtown side.
The flooding Wednesday was a reminder of the city’s need and how “it is going to get worse” without the completion of the plan, Busch said.
When told about Busch’s announcement, Buckley joked he canceled a large order of rain boots.
“This couldn’t be better timing,” Buckley said.
Annapolis flood mitigation plan began under former Mayor Mike Pantelides, who successfully lobbied Gov. Larry Hogan’s administration for a $1 million in 2016. That plan seeks to mitigate nuisance flooding by preventing back-flow out of storm drains and high tides spilling over seawalls. The city contracted with AECOM, an engineering firm out of Los Angeles to design the flood mitigation system. The design process will last until September, with the city hoping to finish the project in June 2020.
But the project needed more funding, so Buckley made a plea for another $1.25 million to the Anne Arundel County Delegation in January. The city is also looking for another $3 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
During the delegation meeting Busch said Buckley and County Executive Steve Schuh should work together to raise money. Busch said he wasn’t aware if those conversations had taken place and decided to pursue the money at the state level.
The flood mitigation plan isn’t going to solve the city’s flooding problems completely or overnight. Annapolis had about 39 nuisance floods a year between 2007 to 2013, according to date from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. This was a 925 percent increase from the average of 3.8 floods a year between 1957 to 1963.
Wednesday’s flood brought with it traffic and access issues city officials have vowed to improve upon.
Despite emails and social media posts from the Office of Emergency Management Prepare Me app, drivers continued past police barricades and amplified traffic problems. Buckley is in talks with his staff to improve communication regarding alternative routs to prevent snarled traffic.
Del. Herb McMillan, R-Eastport, suggested creating two-way traffic on Duke of Gloucester Street for cars crossing the bridge.
City officials also pledged to make better use of message boards, which only advertised closures for the St. Patrick’s Day Parade next week.