An aerial image of the first major water storage facility to open to protect Historic Ellicott City from flooding.

Howard County and state officials on Monday officially opened the largest stormwater retention project to date to protect Historic Ellicott City from devastating flooding.

Howard County Executive Calvin Ball led a ceremony to celebrate the completion of a project that is known as the H-7 Pond. The pond is essentially a dam built in a clover-leaf interchange where U.S. 29 intersects with Baltimore National Pike, near the top of the Tiber River watershed and upstream from the historic town, and can hold 4.2 million gallons of water during a heavy rain event.

“This pond is the first major public works project to be completed through our Ellicott City Safe and Sound plan and is one of the largest and most important projects in the history of Howard County,” said Ball. “While we can never eliminate the risk of flooding, we can do all we can to reduce the toll of devastating storms. We are making Ellicott City a national model of resilience.”

While the pond will typically remain dry, it can hold enough water to cover a football field to a height of 13 feet, restricting its flow into the Tiber River watershed and away from Historic Ellicott City.

The project cost $5.3 million to build, $4 million of which came from state funding. It was finished four months ahead of a projected completion date. In addition to creating the retention area, 110 trees and 1,800 native plants were planted, officials said.

Ellicott City has been the site of devastating and deadly flooding in recent years, exacerbated by its location on a granite slope leading into the Patapsco River. Ball was elected county executive a few months after the deadly 2018 flood, and one of his first tasks was developing a series of flood control and other protection projects.

Federal, state and local officials have worked together to amass the resources needed to protect Ellicott City, home to the oldest railroad terminus in the United States, the first station on the Baltimore and Ohio line. Ball said during his administration, $167 million has been committed, which includes $40 million in state funds.

State Sen. Katie Fry Hester, a Democrat representing Ellicott City, said that she and other lawmakers have created a Resilient Maryland Revolving Loan Fund, which will use $25 million in state funds to leverage $1 billion in federal funding for Maryland projects.

Ball’s flood control plan includes seven major water retention and water conveyance projects; as well as enhanced stream cleaning; a tone alert warning system and signage; and drainage improvements throughout the watershed.

Howard County Executive Calvin Ball stands before the largest flood control project constructed to date as part of the Ellicott City Safe and Sound plan. (Source: Howard County government)

Jillian Joseph, the executive director of the Ellicott City Partnership, called the new pond a “critical piece in ensuring that…the historic and wonderful businesses and Main Street residences stay safe during a severe weather event.

“When everyone works together,” she said, “great things can be achieved.”

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