Follow Up: Ellicott City Flood

By David Feehan

Several weeks ago, I wrote about disaster planning and the horrendous flood that nearly destroyed downtown Ellicott City, Md. Now, County Executive Calvin Ball has proposed a more expensive flood mitigation plan for the city. The price tag could easily reach $140 million–no small number for a relatively small town.

I worked for a number of years in Kalamazoo, Mich., as the president of the downtown organization, Downtown Kalamazoo Incorporated. We had negotiated a novel contract to manage the city downtown parking system. One of the challenges was to incorporate parking planning into the massive Arcadia Commons project, which would encompass several blocks of downtown in a 100-year flood plain.

With recent flooding of downtowns in the Midwest, isn’t it time to think seriously about how parking systems can not only survive downtown floods, but be used creatively to mitigate damage to the overall community?

I’m no civil engineer. But I would like to challenge IPMI members who are engineers to come up with new ideas as to how parking lots and garages can be used as part of an overall flood control program. Certainly stormwater retention pools, rain gardens, and other engineering features can be used to proactively anticipate flood conditions and lessen damage to other structures.

Climate change is almost certainly going to increase the severity of flooding. We should be thinking about not only how to avoid damage to our systems, both physically and financially, but about how we can be part of a larger strategy to mitigate damage and reduce cost.

David Feehan is president of Civitas Consultants, LLC.

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