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Ellicott City Flood Plan
M. Courtney Watson Testimony TAO1, CB61, CB62-2018 September 17,2018
Good evening Councilmembers. This is your decision as the legislative body of the county. I support the public process that leads to a comprehensive plan for flood mitigation for Ellicott City and stand ready to assist at the state level. Whatever decision the County Council ultimately makes on this flood mitigation plan, I would ask you to create an economic development plan on a parallel path to support the businesses that will be open throughout this process. Please consider inserting language in this bill to include this.
The issue of flood mitigation for Ellicott City is helped, but not solved, in this five-year plan, and so we know that the plan must be longer than five years. We also know that Howard County cannot do this alone. The state of Maryland must participate at a greater level than we have seen to date. Ellicott City is not just a local treasure; it is a state and national one.
After studying the state budget, I maintain that the state can provide more funding from existing sources for towns like Ellicott City that are being severely impacted by higher intensity and more frequent storms, but the solutions need to be led through a successful legislative process in the General Assembly. I have identified the following opportunities that I will pursue to provide more state funding if elected as state delegate:
The Flood Hazards Management Act of 1976 is in place, but it has not been active in terms of providing grants to localities in many years. It could be revised through state legislation to address current flooding scenarios and funded by the state legislature so that grants are available as needed.
The Water Quality Revolving Loan Fund provides loans to localities, but this could be modified by the state legislature to include loan forgiveness provisions in cases of historic landmark towns.
The Bay Restoration Fund from 2004 charges a fee to upgrade 67 sewage treatment plants across the state. Also known as the “flush tax” this funding stream has grown to $100 million a year. The largest treatment plants are complete and there is reason to believe that some of this existing funding could be made available, through state legislation, to assist towns like Ellicott City.
A new bill could be introduced that would require funding each year to historic towns affected by flooding, prioritizing Ellicott City, to assist with upgrading stormwater infrastructure and protecting from flash floods. There is precedent for this approach in aiding counties with other kinds of infrastructure expenses.
These four options – the first three involve updating existing programs to apply to Ellicott City, and the fourth that would be new, are options that I commit to pursue vigorously if elected as state delegate because I believe that historic Ellicott City can be safe, businesses can prosper and grow, history can be saved – but Howard County cannot wait any longer for more significant long term help from the state of Maryland. I will work to get one or more of these measures passed in the General Assembly immediately upon being elected state delegate representing District 9B.