They come from a different world. Their customs and culture are not like ours. Their country and its people are often judged by how they are portrayed by our media, and we by theirs. We are opposites on many levels; but at our core, we are all human. And that makes us more alike than different.
The people of Iraq face challenges similar to those of Americans, and the one that recently brought a group of Iraqi visitors to south Florida was how to protect the lives of those who live and work near aging structures. Mosul Dam (formerly Saddam Dam) is Iraq’s largest dam and the Middle East’s fourth largest reservoir. It is located 45 miles north of the city of Mosul, Iraq’s third largest city with a population of 1.7 million. The dam is a critical energy source, providing power and electricity to several countries. But it is also aging and in desperate need of repairs.
Iraq is fully aware of the challenges facing the aging structure, and the country is hard at work trying to determine the best path forward for rehabilitation. The effort to rehabilitate the dam will be the largest ever attempted in the world.
At the request of the Ministry of Iraq, a five-member delegation from the Iraq Ministry of Water Resources recently completed a brief tour of the east coast of the United States to learn about dam structures and cutoff walls. For most members in the delegation, it was their first visit to the United States. The tour included a visit to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville District’s Herbert Hoover Dike at Lake Okeechobee as well as to Nashville District’s Wolf Creek and Center Hill Dams, and Little Rock District’s Clearwater Dam.
The Wolf Creek Dam project is the most similar to the Mosul Dam, and was an important stop on the itinerary. However, Wolf Creek doesn’t even come close to the size of the effort that will be required at Mosul. The deepest cutoff wall constructed to date at Wolf Creek was 400 feet. The cutoff wall to be attempted at Mosul Dam will be twice as deep, at 800 feet. The Mosul Dam is 10 times deeper than the Herbert Hoover Dike. In fact, the equipment for the mammoth cutoff wall for Mosul is still under development.
“There is no precedence to what they are trying to achieve,” said David Paul, lead civil engineer for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Risk Management Center.
The goal of the tour for the Iraqi engineers was to learn how to secure contracts, from bid phase to completion; understand the critical need for construction management; and view different methods of technology being used during cutoff wall construction at various sites.
“The trip has created positive interaction,” said Paul. “They have a difficult project ahead of them.”
The engineers gained great benefits from understanding the history of the Corps’ problems with seepage, how the Corps evaluates those conditions, and the decision to use cutoff walls to mitigate seepage concerns.
“Our projects are very similar to what they have going at Mosul Dam,” said Paul. “They could directly relate their experiences to ours, and I think that was extremely valuable.”
The trip to Clearwater Dam provided an opportunity for the group to see actual cranes and rock mills in normal operation. They were also able to discuss crucial construction issues such as rock mill design and handling.
The success of the trip would not have been possible without the collaboration between several Corps districts. Members of the delegation expressed their sincere appreciation to the Corps for the time and effort that was put into ensuring their trip was informative and beneficial.
“All in all, I think it was a great moment spent collaborating and learning from fellow engineers from around the world,” said Bobby Van Cleave, geotechnical engineer at Clearwater Dam. “They have an enormous task at Mosul Dam, and maybe some information they gained from their visit will help them successfully complete that mission.”