Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and Howard County Executive Calvin Ball, along with other government officials, broke ground Monday on the H7 pond, one of many projects in the Ellicott City Safe and Sound flood mitigation plan.
The pond at the underpass of routes 29 and 40 will provide 13 acre-feet of storage, which is approximately the same as 10 football fields, each covered with about one foot of water. The project will reduce the amount of water that runs off the site by more than 30% in the event of a 100-year storm, meaning a storm that has a 1-in-100 chance of happening any given year. It should be completed within 18 months.
The community was struck with two devastating floods in 2016 and 2018 that left three people dead in total, resulted in millions in damage and sent more than 8 feet of water on Main Street after rainwater overwhelmed the Tiber River and poured out of the channel.
“Our goal is to keep our residents safe, reduce the amount of flood water in historic Ellicott City and preserve the historic nature of our town,” Ball said.
Designed to reduce the water flow to the Hudson Branch during storm events, which passes through downtown Ellicott City, the retention pond will release the water slowly “once the danger has passed,” Ball said, and will cost approximately $3.2 million.
The design and the funding of the H7 pond was “a true partnership” between the state and the county, Ball said, noting the state owned the land where the H7 pond was being built.
“I vividly remember walking down Main Street immediately after the storms had ended to survey the damage,” Hogan said Monday. “I remember talking with local residents and business owners about what is it going to take to rebuild and recover.”
The state has committed more than $20 million to Howard County to assist in flood mitigation and resilience efforts, including $2.4 million for the H7 pond. The state also funded the Ellicott City public alert system, which is meant to warn of potential flooding in the historic district.
“This project … is a shining example of Marylanders working together to protect our communities and our local economies in order to save lives,” Hogan said. “Our administration is proud to partner with Howard County and proud to strongly support these efforts literally since Day One.”
The ceremony was a visible sign of the progress the county was making to help preserve Ellicott City for the future, Ball said.
“Today, behind-the-scenes work has finally led to where we are today, breaking ground on the first of several flood mitigation project,” Ball said, noting other flood mitigation projects were advancing, too.
Bids were released on the Quaker Mill pond on Rogers Avenue, another dry flood mitigation pond, with construction expected to begin early next year. The demolition of the four buildings on Main Street — Phoenix Emporium, Great Panes Art Glass Studio, Discoveries and Bean Hollow — should take place next year, as well as the construction of the Maryland Avenue culvert.
The north tunnel, which Ball called the “single most impactful project in our Safe and Sound plan,” is in the design phase and should break ground next year as well. The tunnel, which will divert water cascading into the steep-sided valley during storms, is planned to run 5,000 feet parallel to Main Street from 8800 Frederick Road to the Patapsco River.
The entirety of the Safe and Sound plan is estimated to cost $113 million to $140 million and be completed by mid-2025.