"How fixable is it? What is that fix going to be and is it based on science or desperation?" Ellicott City business owner Sally Fox Tenant said.
Those are the multi-million dollar questions for Ellicott City business and home owners, county employees and U.S. Senators.
"There are a lot of questions we want to ask as to how we can mitigate the risk factors in Ellicott City," Sen. Ben Cardin said.
The floods in 2016 and 2018 caused millions of dollars in damage, hundreds of evacuations and the loss of life. As Ellicott City continues to recover, Sen. Ben Cardin and Sen. Chris Van Hollen, joined by Congressman Elijah Cummings, brought a field hearing to Howard County both to review what causes these floods and figure out how the federal government can help in recovery and flood mitigation. The problem was really identified today as excessive storm run off.
There have been 21 floods since 1768 and most were caused by the Patapsco River rising, but the last three floods all within 10 years were caused by the tributaries flooding.
During the hearing, Colonel John Litz, Commander of the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, Baltimore District, recommended further studying of the entire watershed to get a better idea of what solutions are cost effective and will actually mitigate flooding.
"We gotta get more information to come up with the practical solution. No matter what the solution, it's gonna cost a lot of money," Cummings said.
That's something Howard County employees know firsthand.
"We've talked about funding. That's the bottom line," councilman Jon Weinstein said.
Right now, the county is footing the bill for all recovery efforts, waiting for reimbursement from FEMA. In fact they are still waiting on some reimbursements from the 2016 flood.
They are asking more financial support to continue helping residents and implement $80 million dollars worth of infrastructure projects proposed after the 2016 flood.
"We have much work to do to restore this community to a resilient and sustainable form and we can’t ignore the urgency to get the work done," Mark DeLuca, deputy director of the Howard County Department of Public Works, said.
But even county employees say there may still be a flood risk for the historic town, leaving many business and home owners in limbo.
"The last flood, I had a goal. I was going to rebuild. I was going to reopen," Tenant said. "Now I really still don’t know what the end result is going to be. I’m still working really hard but to live with that uncertainty, to give up what I worked 38 years for, to give up my home and my life in Ellicott City."
The meeting presented more questions than answers. The big take away was that there is no easy fix to the town's flooding problems. A sign of hope for business owners is th eagerness of the community and representatives to work together to return Ellicott City to a safe, resilient and vibrant community. This meeting showing it's a long work in progress.
"We are going to do everything humanly possible to preserve Ellicott City. It's a treasure," Cardin said.