It's time for action to alleviate flooding problems in historic Ellicott City, Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman said Friday.
The message accompanied an announcement that the county executive has formed a Flood Advisory Group, a 10-member commision of Ellicott City residents, environmentalists and business owners who will be tasked with developing and implementing flood mitigation projects.
"This is not another study group -- we've studied this problem long enough," Kittleman said in a statement.
Downtown Ellicott City has long had a history of flooding problems. Hurricanes and tropical storms, including after Tropical Storm Agnes in 1972, Hurricane Eloise in 1975 and Hurricane Floyd in 1999, have wreaked havoc on the town. Most recently, flooding from Tropical Storm Lee in 2011 caused tens of thousands of dollars worth of damage in personal property losses alone, according to residents' estimates.
County Councilman Jon Weinstein, who represents Ellicott City in District 1 and used to own a business on Main Street, said he understood the frustration and fear of residents and business owners firsthand. "This issue has been a top priority for me for years, and the executive and I have been working closely to establish a group like this to take action on flood mitigation," he said in a statement.
Kittleman included $2.5 million for Ellicott City flood mitigation projects in his fiscal year 2016 budget. The first phase of work will include inspection, design and construction of retaining walls, a flood proofing study and the reformation of a channel under the Tiber Park Bridge, according to a county press release.
The Flood Advisory Group will work on planning and implementation of phase II, as well as hold at least one public hearing a year to garner community input; search for grant opportunities to fund flood mitigation projects; work on educational initiatives; and work with county staff to find ways to lower Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, insurance rates.
Debbie Slack Katz, a lifelong county resident and director of Genesis Health Care, will chair the group, which will hold its first meeting on Monday, June 15 and will meet on a monthly basis.
"I have lived through the floods and seen the devastation to business owners and residents," Slack Katz said in a statement. "We have a county executive now who wants to tackle this issue, so we need to take advantage of it. Let's get some work done."
The rest of the group members are:
·Frank Durantaye (Ellicott City resident and business owner)
·Debra Korb (Ellicott City Partnership, Executive Director)
·Dave Myers (Office of State Delegate Robert Flanagan)
·Kevin Bloom (Ellicott City resident)
·Bruno Reich (American Institute of Architects/AIA)
·Ken McNaughton (Ellicott City resident/ and expert in engineering)
·Jason McMillan(Ellicott City business owner)
·Ron Peters (Ellicott City property owner)
County staff advising the group will include Raj Kudchadkar, the special projects manager for the county's Department of Planning and Zoning, Mark DeLuca of the Department of Public Works, Weinstein's special assistant Gary Smith, Jim Caldwell of the Office of Community Sustainability and Ryan Miller of the Office of Emergency Management.