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New Howard County flood mitigation plan could save buildings from demolition

ELLICOTT CITY: Why Did It Flood Again?
Posted at 4:00 PM, Mar 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-25 16:00:03-04

ELLICOTT CITY, Md. — Howard County on Thursday announced major changes to the Ellicott City Safe & Sound plan for flood mitigation.

Now officials are planning to extend the North Tunnel, which would save at least nine buildings from having to be demolished at the West End of the city.

The extended tunnel would start around 8800 Frederick Road and run approximately 5,000 feet to the Patapsco River, as opposed to lot F where the current design starts.

It's anticipated the extension of the tunnel could reduce water on the street from approximately 3.5 feet to less than six-inches..

“The extension of the North Tunnel has four major benefits – it is anticipated to reduce water levels, eliminate other projects, save homes and historical properties, and is anticipated to be cost neutral,” said County Executive Calvin Ball. “This is a significant change to our plan but one that achieves the goals we have always set out to achieve – less water on the street, fewer buildings that need to be removed, and a safer town for all.”

Ball said the cost of the North Tunnel would be funded by a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency loan through the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act.

Approximately 10 easements will be needed to complete the extended North Tunnel project, only three of which are required by the extension.

The extended tunnel will be primarily constructed well below the ground surface, outside of utility clearances, and away from existing buildings.

Water would enter the tunnel through two areas, on the north side of the 8800 Block of Frederick Road and at Parking Lot F.

Storm flow would be directed from those points into the tunnel where the water would gravitate below ground into the Patapsco River.

The County’s goal is to begin construction in 2022.

The extended North Tunnel also would eliminate the need for the 8777 culvert project, the 8600 culvert project, and the 8552 berm/bypass project that were originally planned to alleviate flooding in the West End of Ellicott City.

One structure that would be saved is Earlougher’s Tavern, which Nick Redding, the President/CEO of Preservation Maryland, called "a victory for history."

Some business owners also applauded the new plan.

“We owe it to ourselves and our ancestors to do everything in our power to protect the future Old Ellicott City,” said Angie Tersiguel, owner of Tersiguel’s French Country Restaurant in Ellicott City. “This expanded tunnel project protects the very things we don’t want changed, our heritage, our homes, our neighborhood, and our community. I remain truly excited and look forward to the continued progress of the Ellicott City Safe and Sound plan.”