ELLICOTT CITY, Md. (WJZ) — Howard County is seeking a $75 million federal loan to pay for major infrastructure projects intended to head off flooding.

The county announced Monday it has filed an application to borrow that money from the Environmental Protection Agency to fund an extension of the North Tunnel and other infrastructure projects identified as priorities by the Ellicott City Safe & Sound plan.

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“Our commitment to keeping Ellicott City Safe & Sound has not wavered, and this critical funding for the now Extended North Tunnel and our other projects paves the way for us to be a national example for implementing flood mitigation efforts for a historic town,” Howard County Executive Calvin Ball said.

The funding would be lent out through the EPA’s Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act, or WIFIA, program, which offers more favorable borrowing terms than issuing a 20-year bond.

In recent years, Howard County has assembled more than $56 million in funds to carry out the Safe & Sound plan, including over $20 million from the state and nearly $30 million more from the county.

The push to shield Ellicott City from natural disaster comes after flooding devastated the town twice in three years, first in July 2016 and again in May 2018. Both floods were deadly and left behind significant damage to the town’s historic Main Street corridor.

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A plan to extend the North Tunnel to roughly 5,000 feet is billed as the centerpiece of the county’s flood mitigation plans. It would not only reduce water on the street but also mean the county would not need to demolish a series of historic buildings.

Other projects viewed as priorities for the Safe & Sound plan include the creation of ponds to keep floodwaters away from the town, the renovation and removal of several buildings in the area and the construction of the Maryland Avenue Culvert.

According to the county, it can be approved by the EPA for a loan that would equal nearly half of the overall cost of the Safe & Sound plan. The rest of the money would have to come from a combination of the county and other funding sources.

“The federal WFIA loan, in addition to the $18.5 million Senator Hester and I obtained from the state legislature, will be the capstone for the completion of Safe and Sound Plan to enable Ellicott City to prosper another 250 years,” Delegate Courtney Watson said.

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If the loan is approved, the county could get its hands on that funding as soon as midway through 2022.

CBS Baltimore Staff