NASHVILLE, Tenn. (April 20, 2017) – An engineering and construction trio from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District recently returned home from Iraq where they helped oversee construction projects at Mosul Dam, forged goodwill with the international repair team, and even supported the military operation to retake the city of Mosul.
When Iraq awarded a contract in March 2016 to Trevi, the Italian contractor chosen to rehabilitate and maintain Mosul Dam, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Middle East District in Winchester, Va., assembled a team of engineers at the request of the Iraqi government to serve as the engineer for the project, which consists of the construction of a base camp, drilling and grouting operation, and inspection and repair of the bottom outlet tunnels and equipment.
Jimmy Waddle, Nashville District Engineering and Construction Division chief in Nashville, Tenn., accepted an appointment to lead the effort as resident engineer for the Corps of Engineers team at Mosul Dam. Jason Foust, project engineer at the Kentucky Lock Addition Project in Grand Rivers, Ky., and Mike Brown, geotechnical engineer in the Civil Design Branch’s Soils and Dam Safety Section at the district headquarters in Nashville, also joined the Corps of Engineers team in Iraq.
Waddle first reported to the Middle East District headquarters in Virginia in May 2016 to begin preliminary work on the project. After months of preparation, he arrived at Mosul Dam Sept. 14 with several other Corps members and they hit the ground running.
“We were really trying to get our hands around things, focusing initially and primarily on the construction safety at the base camp,” Waddle said. “We also had to do some urgent work on one of the bottom outlet tunnels.”
The repair team painstakingly removed a bent stainless steel rod that was about 30-foot long and 2.5-inches thick. They had to cut it in three-foot sections in a confined space to remove it, then fabricate another and reinstall it to make the gate operable. That was about three weeks of intense work, he recalled.
“When the power plant and turbines are not running they have to open the gates to release flow downstream,” Waddle said.
Brown, project manager for constructing the housing complex, said in the first couple of months there were a few indirect fire incidents from rockets and artillery that attempted to harass operations in the area.
“We were very happy when the Mosul offensive started because it pushed that ISIS presence away,” Brown said. “Once that started all the booms and bangs that we heard were outgoing.”
The contractor simultaneously constructed the housing complex and support facilities needed to accommodate hundreds of construction workers, Corps of Engineers personnel and Italian troops living in tents that provided security for the international contingent.
Brown thought he would be heavily involved with the dam safety effort, but instead filled the need of overseeing the construction of the housing complex, dining facility and structures for essentials such as a potable water. He worked with the contractor on adjusting designs and scope of work to stay within budget and to make safety a priority on the job site.
He called the operation a “logistics dance” as they moved people into dormitories as soon as they were completed. The Corps’ efforts to redesign foundations, roads and in some cases eliminate unneeded facilities also produced cost savings, he added.
“We saved a lot of money,” Brown said. “We figure we saved $13.4 million in redesigning and re-scoping some things we felt were not necessary. We eliminated some residential buildings because the population was not what was previously predicted.”
In rehabilitating Mosul Dam’s foundation, the Corps of Engineers reestablished an old working relationship with Trevi, which previously worked to stop seepage at a Nashville District dam. They were partners in a joint venture that completed the installation of a barrier wall deep into the foundation of Wolf Creek Dam at Lake Cumberland in Jamestown, Ky., a massive project completed in 2013.
Nashville District’s engineers worked alongside Trevi for seven years on that project and the experience prepped both parties for similar challenges working together on the drilling and grouting operation in the foundation at Mosul Dam.
The geology at Mosul Dam is known to be favorable to seepage because it includes gypsum, which is highly susceptible to erosion. Since the dam’s construction in 1984, Iraqi engineers have kept the foundation stable with routine grouting operations. However, the dam did experience a lapse in maintenance when ISIS briefly seized the dam in 2014.
Foust actually deployed first to Kandahar, Afghanistan in June 2016 where he was charged to installed power lines in the southern part of the country. He arrived at Mosul Dam in early October where he served as deputy construction manager and helped with overseeing quality assurance to ensure the contractor fulfilled its requirements.
“Overwhelmingly my time was spent working on the grouting effort,” Foust said. “It took a lot of time to get the contractor set up to work and get production rolling.”
Foust said the work would sometimes be slow and calculated. He noted that his experience as a geologist and observing grouting operations at projects like Wolf Creek Dam in Kentucky helped him at Mosul Dam with figuring out how to get things moving forward as far as establishing the procedures and processes involved with drilling and grouting.
“It was good to be a part of repairing that huge structure,” Foust said.
The trio from the Nashville District all said the best thing about their assignment involved building strong personal and cultural relationships with foreigners from numerous nations along with the Italian soldiers.
The mingled group of professionals working at the dam all took turns making different meals to provide a taste of their respective cultures, and at one point Waddle even broke out a karaoke machine where he sang songs by country music greats such as Garth Brooks and Alan Jackson. Jokes were told that his songs caused ISIS to retreat, but nonetheless these moments fostered comradery and made the assignment fun despite being so far from friends and loved ones.
“I met people from all over. On the ground on a daily basis there were a half a dozen languages being spoken at any given time,” Foust said. “There was Turkish and Kurdish and Arabic and Italian and Filipino and English of course… a multinational effort. It was interesting to be a part of that.”
Waddle lauded the military and civilian Corps of Engineers members on the technical team at Mosul Dam that adapted and overcame.
“The challenges were the languages and the expectations and the logistical measures of getting equipment and materials in there,” Waddle said.
“We felt from day one that we were making the dam safer,” Foust said. “I felt that we were representing the Corps there with the customer and trying to do a good project.”
Waddle, Brown and Foust all returned to Nashville in mid-March. They took some time off but are now back at work, sharing stories of making a difference stabilizing the fourth largest dam in the Middle East and making sure the Iraqis continue to benefit from hydropower and water storage in the reservoir well into the future.
(The public can obtain news, updates and information from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District on the district’s website at www.lrn.usace.army.mil, on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/nashvillecorps, and on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/nashvillecorps.)