Wednesday, October 16, 2013

"Flood Mitigation Activities and Projects Should be Undertaken"

On September 7, 2011, Tropical Storm Lee flooded Main Street Ellicott City.  The structures you see in this first image are homes:

The same is true here, on the "West End" of Main Street.

Finally, Main Street itself:

These diagrams are all taken from a Case Study (PDF) done to evaluate this storm and what, if anything, could be done to prevent future flooding of its magnitude and rapid onset.

Here was the conclusion reached by the Howard County Office of Emergency Management:

Information obtained during the data collection, compilation, and subsequent result portion of the Case Study indicate that flood mitigation activities and projects should be undertaken.   Public outreach activities regarding flood insurance and flood proofing are highly recommended.  In addition to public outreach, flood mitigation acquisition projects for the two properties that experienced first-floor flooding should be considered.  Finally, citizen participation in flood mitigation activities and projects is essential.  A partnership between the County and stakeholders should be formally established to work toward the ultimate goal of becoming a disaster-resistant community.

(Emphasis Added).

In the two years since, Ellicott City is just as vulnerable to a "50 year storm" like Lee (take the percentage likelihood and extend it out over every year -- a 2% storm is a "50 year storm"; a 1% storm is a "100 year storm").  This is not by any malfeasance or lack of interest by County government, but rather a quagmire of overlapping interests that have effectively paralyzed constructive action.

Private property rights stand in the way of stream-bed cleans and rehabilitation.  State laws and regulations prevent clean-up within the river, particularly with the use of any heavy machinery.  County resources are limited to projects that will have a lasting impact on flood mitigation that are proven out by flooding models, all of which show limited impact of projects upstream.

But something must be done.  One solution being floated around is creating a public-private partnership by which private easements would be solicited from property owners, blanket permissions granted by the State, and private non-profits enlisted to do the work to rehabilitate the Tiber River and address many of the glaring problems plaguing West End and, in turn, Main Street (i.e., trees laying in the river, crumbling culverts, flotsam dams, etc.).  Admittedly, the impact on the whole may not be known, but it would certainly begin the process of reaching the "ultimate goal of becoming a disaster-resistant community."

I hope the Howard County Delegation takes this issue on this session to at least put the cornerstone in place to allow rehabilitation to begin.  The motivation and manpower are there.  These images, these crude floating blocks on white background, are prompts for action.  Let's act.

Have a great Wednesday doing what you love!