ELLICOTT CITY, Md. (WJZ) — State and local leaders broke ground on a new pond in Ellicott City on Monday. The pond is expected to help prevent a repeat of the 2016 and 2018 floods.

The images of those storms continue to haunt people who live and work along Main Street in Ellicott City. The floods that were supposed to happen only once every 1,000 years hit this area twice in the last five years.

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The sudden and rapid summer storms dumped excessive rain in the area and when the Tiber River couldn’t contain the precipitation, water flooded the streets, burst through the floors and walls of businesses and destroyed several buildings.

“I can tell you it was just devastating to see. The people that really just lost their livelihoods, we lost lives, it was devastating,” said  Governor Larry Hogan. “But this town is incredibly resilient, I couldn’t be more proud of the people, the way the community came together.”

Since the floods in 2016 and 2018, Howard County has been working on plans to prevent devasting floods from reoccurring.

Monday, the governor and the county executive broke ground on a new pond that is expected to trap water before it causes another disaster.

“Retention projects are designed to hold water away from Ellicott City and release it slowly once the danger has passed,” said County Executive Calvin Ball. “Once complete it will provide approximately 13-acre feet of storage.”

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The pond is about two miles upstream. This is just one of several projects that could cost a total of $140 million. County leaders said $60 million has already been accounted for through local and state funding, along with grants. The county said it may also have access to an interest-free federal loan in the future.

County Executive Ball said the improvements, which may take a few years to complete, will include culverts to divert water and eventually a new tunnel.

“This is going to be an issue that we are going to be dealing with for quite some time. We are seeing the intensity and frequency of storms coming not only in Ellicott City, but throughout the state, the nation and the world, and so now we are looking at how to come up with 21st-century ways to address flood mitigation,” says County Executive Ball.

Three people died in the floods and some business owners gave up and moved out. But for those who stayed, this is a plan they pray will work.

“There’s definitely some hope, we’re waiting on a lot more projects to happen and we are excited that this is an initial groundbreaking moment,” said Chris Pineda, the executive director of Ellicott City Partnership.

In the summer of 2020, the county executive announced that some work like the Rogers Avenue storm drain has already been completed and bigger projects like a tunnel under parts of Historic Ellicott City, will come later.

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Ava-joye Burnett