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Ellicott City flood mitigation projects to begin construction within 18 months, Howard County announces

Five additional flood mitigation projects in old Ellicott City should be started in the next 18 months, Howard County officials announced Thursday. However, demolition of historic Main Street structures will not take place until 2021.

The projects are designed to prevent, or at least ease, the kind of deadly flooding that swept through the former mill community in 2016 and 2018 following extremely heavy rainstorms.

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“I know the anxiety our neighbors in Ellicott City feel every time it rains because I feel it, too,” Howard County Executive Calvin Ball said during a Thursday news conference on Main Street in Ellicott City. “If done correctly, the progress you cannot see every day leads to progress you can see.”

To date just one of the flood mitigation projects on the county’s Safe and Sound Plan has been completed — the Rogers Avenue storm drain improvement.

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The five projects scheduled to start include: creating a flood mitigation pond at the intersection of Route 40 and Rogers Avenue to increase water retention, retrofitting the existing Quaker Mill Pond on Rogers Avenue, constructing culverts at Maryland Avenue, adding additional culverts to carry the Tiber River under the road at 8534 and 8600 Main St., and creating a berm, or soil barrier, at 8552 Main St.

Wendy Pidel, who lives on Main Street in Ellicott City, watched the county’s announcement on Facebook. Pidel tuned into the livestream because one of the projects is set to happen right outside her home, and she wanted a better understanding of the timeline.

“[I have] a renewed sense of optimism [that it’s] going to be done,” Pidel said of the flood mitigation projects. “I have a renewed sense of optimism moving forward.”

The entirety of the Safe and Sound Plan, announced in May 2019, is estimated to cost $113 million to $140 million and be completed by mid-2025.

In April, the county acquired the last of the 10 Ellicott City properties needed to proceed with the demolition phase of the plan: razing four buildings and tearing down the back portions of another six. To complete the demolition and removal of these buildings, the county needs to complete federal historic preservation assessments of the proposed changes to the buildings.

The next step is a Sept. 9 public meeting at which the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Maryland Department of the Environment will host a discussion of the historic preservation process. People and groups who potentially could be affected by the proposed work were invited to testify, according to the county.

The county has said it anticipates the work will get the needed state and federal approvals by the beginning of next year. At the news conference, Ball said he expected to see demolition of the four buildings before June 30.

Shaina Hernandez, a senior policy adviser for Ball, said the remaining five projects will have a firmer timeline once the county secures funding. Hernandez also said some of those projects will impact the day-to-day life of Ellicott City residents minimally.

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