Howard County is drawing up plans for new projects aimed at slowing and controlling stormwater in streams that flow through Ellicott City's historic district — the same streams that swelled into a deadly and damaging flood nearly one year ago.
Four projects announced Wednesday will cost an estimated $18 million, with the county hoping to get financial help from the state and federal governments.
"Howard County cannot do this alone," said County Executive Allan Kittleman at an announcement held on Main Street near the town clock, which was damaged in last summer's flood. A replacement clock will be unveiled Saturday as part of a weekend of commemorations of the flood.
A total of 6 1/2 inches of rain fell in the span of two hours on July 30 last year, swelling the Tiber and Hudson tributaries to the Patapsco River and triggering floods that coursed down Main Street. Two people were killed when they were swept away in the floodwaters.
Dozens of cars were also swept into the river, and buildings and businesses suffered tens of millions of dollars in damage. The public infrastructure — roads, sidewalks and the like — sustained $11 million in damage alone.
In the months since the flood, the county has completed other infrastructure projects. In addition to shoring up streets and sidewalks, crews rebuilt stream channels and retaining walls.
Kittleman said the projects announced Wednesday represent a next step in long-term improvements to control the flow of water in the area.
"These projects will allow us to retain more water in the upper reaches of the watershed and they will improve the way we move water downhill," he said. "Basically, making water less likely to back up and flood the streets and our homes."
Three of the projects involve creating vast "dry ponds" along streams to hold water during major storms so the water doesn’t rush into the stream channel. One dry pond will be upstream from Main Street on New Cut Branch, another on Tiber Branch and a third upstream on Hudson Branch near routes 29 and 40.
The fourth project involves replacing some of the pipes and culverts that carry parts of Hudson Branch along Frederick Road toward the historic district. That project includes adding a second pipe in one area to help carry additional water flow.
County officials have begun designing the projects and hope to begin construction within a year. The timing will depend on the amount of funding the county receives from the state and federal governments.
The county is also working on a master plan for the Ellicott City area, which will be added to the county’s overall master plan guiding future growth and development.
Meanwhile, the Main Street community will mark the first anniversary of the flood this weekend. In addition to the clock unveiling, events include a nondenominational reflection service, a dedication of cherry trees to honor those who died in the flood, a 5K race and "apprECiation" discounts and specials at shops and restaurants. A full list of events is posted at visitoldellicottcity.com.