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Ellicott City - Soak It Up

Ellicott City – Soak It Up will engage residents and businesses in Ellicott City’s watershed in a critical partnership to reduce stormwater runoff from their properties. The project will focus on the installation of small best management practices (BMPs) such as turf conversion to native vegetation, stream buffers and tree planting; directing community members to non-structural actions such as stream clean-ups and stakeholder meetings; as well as promotion of historic district businesses to assist with flood recovery efforts. By engaging the Ellicott City watershed community in this manner, we will develop a strategically important support base that will be needed as larger flood mitigation actions are vetted and implemented. 

This is a new campaign whose need became obvious after both the 2011 and 2016 flood events. With increasing intensity and frequency of storms associated with climate change and subsequently more “top down[1]” flooding, the need for upstream stormwater controls has become readily apparent. Watershed engagement and identifying individuals and associations that support behavior change and project implementation is essential to achieving a critical mass of support for long-term solutions. 

Approximately 20-30% of Ellicott City's watershed, the Tiber Hudson watershed, is covered in turf grass (up to 720 acres, see Figure 1), which has a relatively high runoff coefficient compared to other vegetation types – an end goal with this project is to convert that relatively impermeable cover type to native vegetation such as meadow grasses, native perennials and native trees and shrubs in order to increase its permeability and overall infiltration capacity.

In partnership with the Ellicott City Partnership, a small “seed” grant has been received from the Chesapeake Bay Trust to jumpstart this project.  We will develop marketing and branding materials, put together an outreach package for watershed residents, vet the materials with community members and stakeholders, identify neighborhood contacts for future outreach, and implement one demonstration project at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Ellicott City. The demonstration project , a 150 sq ft rain garden and 4500 sq ft conservation landscape, will be celebrated at the church’s 175th anniversary celebration on May 6, 2017, during which the Ellicott City – Soak It Up campaign will also kick off.

Additional funding for this project is pending from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and MD Department of Natural Resources.

Stay tuned for more details!!

Figure 1. Turf conversion areas in the Tiber Hudson (Ellicott City) watershed.

[1] Historical flooding of Ellicott City has come from the “bottom up,” that is, from the Patapsco River rather than from the watershed.