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Howard County Secures $75M Loan For 5,000-Foot Tunnel To Divert Floodwater From Ellicott City

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- Howard County has secured funding to building a 5,000-foot tunnel under Ellicott City, a historic town on the banks of the Patapsco River beset by multiple severe floods, county officials said.

Ellicott City, founded in the 18th century as a mill town and the site of the first terminus of the B&O Railroad outside the city, suffered two 1,000-year floods in 2016 and 2018, damaging dozens of businesses and killing three people.

Once completed, the tunnel, located about 100 feet underground and measuring 18 feet in diameter, will carry 26,000 gallons of stormwater per second away from the town's streets and into the Patapsco, said Howard County Executive Calvin Ball. It amounts to enough water to fill an in-ground swimming pool being diverted into the river every second.

"It will be one of the most important, impactful, transformational projects that Public Works has done in the history of our town," Ball said.

The county has received $75 million in federal low-interest loan through the EPA's Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act for the project, bringing the total amount of county, state and federal money invested in flood mitigation over the last four years to $167 million.

Howard County has also invested in a series of retention ponds on the outskirts of Old Ellicott City, including one with the capacity to retain more than 3 million gallons of stormwater and release it slowly once the danger has passed.

There's already a new culvert system at the top of Main Street, equipped with cameras mounted to show real-time conditions during storms.

The remnants of Tropical Storm Lee also flooded shops on the town's Main Street in 2011.

"These ponds and other investments that are part of our Safe and Sound Plan will tremendously reduce the risk of damage, and most importantly, the risk of lost lives during these types of storms," Ball said last December.

County officials said the design of the tunnel is expected to be completed this year.

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