Howard County Executive Calvin Ball announced May 24 the closing of a $75 million low-interest federal loan to build a 5,000-foot-long tunnel in Ellicott City, the largest and most impactful flood mitigation component of the Ellicott City Safe and Sound Plan. The funding was obtained through the Competitive Water Infrastructure Funding and Innovation Act (WIFIA) of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which provides funding for the construction of water infrastructure projects. water under favorable conditions.
EPA funding brings total county, state and federal investment in Ellicott City to $167 million over the past four years, $138 million more than the previous four years .
“This tunnel will be one of the largest and most impactful public works projects in Howard County’s history. This groundbreaking project will transport 26,000 gallons of stormwater per second away from the streets and foundations of Old Town Ellicott and the West End and straight into the Patapsco River – approximately the amount of water in an inground pool every second . We are writing a new chapter in the long history of Ellicott City, making it a national model of resilience,” said Calvin Ball, Howard County Executive.
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County public works officials said they expect to complete the design of the tunnel this year, with construction beginning as soon as possible. The project, known as the Extended North Tunnel, will be approximately 18 feet in diameter and will extend 100 feet underground just north of Main Street. Howard County has already paved the way for two other major flood mitigation projects – H7 Ponds and Quaker Mill. Both projects are expected to be completed next year and will retain nearly 7.5 million gallons of stormwater combined, or about the size of a football field covered in 23 feet of water.
Executive Ball took office just months after three recent deadly floods, in 2011, 2016 and 2018. The tunnel project was rejected by the previous county administration for its complexity and cost, but Ball said that he had tasked his team with developing a comprehensive solution for Ellicott City Flood Control and researching creative financing options. Ball praised federal, state and local officials for working together on a solution.
Components of the Ellicott City Safe and Sound Plan, which can be found atecsafeandsound.org also include:
- Seven major water retention and conveyance projects, including the tunnel and ponds under construction
- Improved flow cleaning
- Signaling and audible alert warning system
- Drainage improvements throughout the watershed
“This community has seen the challenges of climate change, and issues like flooding are happening across the country. The WIFIA program, which is one of the most effective funding programs we have at EPA, will continue the great work that is happening here in Ellicott City,” said Radhika Fox, EPA administrative assistant for the water. Fox said the terms of the loan would save Howard County $13 million in interest costs compared to other financing options, and construction of the tunnel would “create approximately 900 jobs right here in the county”.
“This is a triumph of local, state and federal government working together for a historic investment in the historic town of Ellicott,” said U.S. Representative John Sarbanes. “WIFIA began as a pilot in 2014 and was later converted into a permanent resource that could help local districts, like Howard County, take advantage of innovative financing. This is the kind of project that will is taking place across the country, unfortunately due to climate change, but the resilience that is being demonstrated here is a model for other communities. The fact that the community, residents and store owners have had the resilience to continue is a testament of people’s minds here in Ellicott City.
Howard County received more than $15 million in state funding this year, thanks to the efforts of Sen. Katie Fry Hester, of Del. Courtney Watson, Senator Guy Guzzone and the entire Howard County delegation. In total, the delegation has secured nearly $42 million for the Ellicott City Safe and Sound plan and other flood mitigation projects since 2019.
“This is no ordinary infrastructure project, it is part of a comprehensive solution to save a historic industrial city from the impacts of severe flooding caused by climate change,” said Senator Fry Hester. “Delegate Watson and I have brought home approximately $40 million to implement the Safe and Sound plan over the past four years – this includes $12 million for the North Tunnel, $2 million for the T1 pond and $1 million for Maryland Avenue culverts just this year.”
“There were naysayers who said we were never going to be able to build this tunnel, that we were never going to get this funding,” Del said. Courtney Watson. “But with our Howard County team, with our help to the state, and with our other partners, we’re getting there.”
“On behalf of the partnership, the small business owners, property owners and residents we represent, we stand ready to move the wheel of progress forward,” said Jillian Joseph, Executive Director of the Ellicott City Partnership. “These funds truly represent real progress, we are grateful to everyone involved in securing a vibrant future for Ellicott City.”
“Being part of this community is a labor of love, I will be working alongside many beautiful people every day who represent this city, who have thriving businesses in this community,” said Angie Tersiguel, owner of Tersiguel’s French Country. Restaurant. “It’s a rare opportunity to see so many people constantly beating for Ellicott City, so thank you. Your partnership takes us into the future, and that’s exactly where Ellicott City needs to go.