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Thread: Mosul Dam problems

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    Council Member Rob Thornton's Avatar
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    Default Mosul Dam problems

    Picked this out of the Earlybird yesterday. A twist to the Powell "Pottery Barn" metaphor - you inherit all kinds of things when you change a regime. While I was in Mosul we had considered many "what ifs", and the dam was one of them as so far it related to sabotage of its electrical generation capability. However, this one is new to me. I think this also speaks volumes to the spectrum involved in the "3 block war" and the types of challenges we find there.


    MOSUL, Iraq — As troops face at least five attacks a day from insurgents here, Army engineers, as well as the Iraq Ministry of Water Resources, battle to keep a beautiful dam 25 miles away from bursting and leaving the city submerged by the Tigris River.

    “It’s not stable... we anticipate it going. It is beyond repair,” said Col. Stephen Twitty, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division commander, from his office at Forward Operating Base Marez.

    In 1983, Saddam Hussein built the Saddam Dam in a picturesque area just above Mosul.

    “That’s why Saddam wanted it there — because it’s pretty,” said Brig. Gen. Francis Wiercinski, deputy commander of U.S. forces deployed in several provinces around Mosul. “The dam is built well, but it’s built on gypsum. Saddam did some things that made no sense.”

    Gypsum is a soft mineral known for being highly water-soluble and for shifting and compacting beneath heavy building material.

    But the dam’s damage also poses another issue: Its hydroelectric plant provides the town’s power, and it is running at only half capacity, Wiercinski said.

    Mosul itself is an archeologist’s dream. The area has been inhabited for 8,000 years. Iraq’s oldest Christian monastery, St. Elijah’s, stands on the U.S military base, and the tomb of Jonah — of “Jonah and the Whale” fame — is also inside Mosul.

    Twitty said $28 million has been spent on 162 dam-repair projects.

    Still, he said, “It is beyond repair. They need to rebuild.”

    If the dam, which holds back 12 billion cubic meters of water, crumbles, the Tigris would not only flood Mosul, leaving the city of almost 2 million people under water, but would also flood the U.S. air base. That base includes the U.S. Combat Support Hospital for the region, as well as the airport.

    If that happened, Twitty said a couple of big stadiums — also Hussein-built — are “part of the contingency plan.”

    But the town, and the troops, would have only 3.5 hours to evacuate. And the troops know it: Almost every conversation in Mosul — over card games, coffee or even out on patrol — leads to speculation about when the dam will finally go.

    To avoid impending disaster, a concrete plant was built near the dam for the sole purpose of pumping cement into the dam, “into those holes every day,” Wiercinski said.

    The Corps of Engineers has created an alarm system, and half of FOB Marez is high enough to stay dry. But everyone on the west side of town will have to flee to higher ground.

    “The whole town will be swept out,” Wiercinski said.

    If — or when — the dam goes, “it’s not good.”

  2. #2
    Council Member Stan's Avatar
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    Default Volcanos are better

    Quote Originally Posted by Rob Thornton View Post
    Picked this out of the Earlybird yesterday. A twist to the Powell "Pottery Barn" metaphor - you inherit all kinds of things when you change a regime. While I was in Mosul we had considered many "what ifs", and the dam was one of them as so far it related to sabotage of its electrical generation capability. However, this one is new to me. I think this also speaks volumes to the spectrum involved in the "3 block war" and the types of challenges we find there.
    There were days in 94 during the refugee crisis when Tom and I hoped the stratovolcano Nyiragongo would bust a gutt (so long as we were more than 5 clicks above sea level).

    Earlybird indeed !

    Our counsel member Merv already had the goods on the 7th

    There is however a bit of missing water...about 4 million cubic meters

    "The dam was constructed on a foundation of marls, soluble gypsum, anhydrite, and karstic limestone that are continuously dissolving," said specialists at the US embassy in a statement. "The dissolution creates an increased risk for dam failure."

    In fact the state of the two-mile long earthfill dam, which holds back some eight billion cubic metres of water in Iraq's largest reservoir, has recently been deteriorating at ever-increasing speed.
    Nice Blog, Merv !

  3. #3
    Council Member Beelzebubalicious's Avatar
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    Now all mosul (Iraq?) needs is locusts and it can claim it's reached the end of the world

  4. #4
    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
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    Naw the end of the world is in Sudan. Mosul has a long way to go...

  5. #5
    Council Member wm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rob Thornton View Post
    Picked this out of the Earlybird yesterday. A twist to the Powell "Pottery Barn" metaphor - you inherit all kinds of things when you change a regime. While I was in Mosul we had considered many "what ifs", and the dam was one of them as so far it related to sabotage of its electrical generation capability. However, this one is new to me. I think this also speaks volumes to the spectrum involved in the "3 block war" and the types of challenges we find there.
    What I find most alarming about this piece is the solution described for the problem: "Let's just keep pumping more concrete into the holes and wait until the whole thing slides away." This dam story is a great metaphor for what I see is wrong with how we tend to operate--putting "bandaids" on sucking chest wounds and propping up the old way of doing business.

    Seems to me that a better solution in Mosul would be to try to divert a lot of the water away from the current dam, to relieve the pressure on it--like maybe dig another channel that reroutes much of water back into the Tigris below the current dam. Enough flow could be let through the current channel and dam to push the turbines to generate electricity. Then a new dam with new hydro capabilities could be built in a location that is more suitable from the standpoint of soil mechanics. That would seem to be time and money much better spent. (Extrapolate from my solution to find new channels for relieving pressure by various insurgents across the theater as you see fit.)

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