Howard County has applied for vital Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) funding from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to finance the Extended North Tunnel and other flood mitigation projects as part of the Ellicott City Safe & Sound plan.
If approved, the loan will cover nearly the entire cost of the Extended North Tunnel, the centerpiece of the transformational flood mitigation plan. The County Council authorized borrowing up to $75 Million in funds through the WIFIA program earlier in 2021. The application follows an invitation to apply from the EPA and signals that the EPA intends to fund the projects included in the application, pending a review of detailed financial and engineering information.
Howard County is among 55 organizations nationwide that were selected to apply for WIFIA funding. If approved by the EPA, funds are anticipated to be available in the third quarter of 2022.
The county can be approved by the EPA to borrow up to 49 percent of the cost of the Safe and Sound Plan through the WIFIA loan program while the remaining 51 percent of the costs will be funded by a combination of County and other sources.
The WIFIA loan program offers a cost effective way to build transformational projects, with greater flexibility, including longer borrowing terms than the county’s typical 20-year general obligation bonds. The tunnel and other flood reduction measures require multi-year construction, and the WIFIA loan program allows for deferral of repayment for up to five years after construction is complete.
In fewer than three years, the Ball Administration has secured over $56 million to support the Safe and Sound plan and associated flood mitigation and stormwater enhancements in Ellicott City, including more than $20 million in assistance from the State of Maryland and nearly $30 million in County funding.
In March 2021, Ball announced plans to extend the original North Tunnel to approximately 5,000 feet, which would reduce water on the street, eliminate other projects in the West End, negate the need for demolition of at least nine historic buildings, and be cost neutral.
In August 2021, Ball was joined by Gov. Larry Hogan and local officials to break ground on the H7 Flood Mitigation Pond. The pond will reduce the amount of water that runs off the site by more than 30 percent in a 100-year storm, keeping more water from flowing to Historic Ellicott City during a severe weather event. The project is a joint partnership between Howard County and the State of Maryland, which owns the land of the pond site. The pond will cost approximately $3.2 million to construct, and is expected to be completed within 18 months, weather permitting.
Additional upcoming Ellicott City Safe & Sound flood mitigation projects include:
- The groundbreaking of Quaker Mill Pond off Rogers Avenue, another dry flood mitigation facility in Ellicott City.
- Construction of the Maryland Avenue Culvert, pending completion of the federal section 106 process and receiving CSX approval.
- Renovation of the 6 County-owned buildings on Lower Main Street, including removing portions of the buildings that extend over the stream channel.
- Removal of four county-owned buildings at the bottom of Main Street to facilitate construction of the Maryland Avenue Culvert.
- Commencing final design for the extended North Tunnel project.