Holding back the flood
In 2016, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers created a special task force to support the repair of the Mosul Dam in Iraq. Situated on the Tigris River, the dam provides hydroelectric power generation and, at full capacity, 40 percent of Iraq’s water storage needs per year.
Despite the dam’s quality design and construction, it was built on a soluble geologic foundation of anhydrite, gypsum, marl and limestone. Water pressure from the reservoir continually degrades the foundation, resulting in seepage through voids beneath and downstream of the dam. The dam’s failure would result in a catastrophic wave and cause a vast humanitarian crisis.
To stabilize the foundation and rehabilitate other critical dam infrastructure, the Mosul Dam Task Force (MDTF) serves as the “engineer” to administer the Iraqi government’s agreement with an Italian contractor to pump grout up to 300 feet below the foundation and slow water flow under the dam.
Two Mines graduates are currently part of MDTF—Andy Olson ’99, MS ’09 is the deputy commander and Mike Woodward MS ’10 is a geotechnical engineer with AECOM. As the project winds down, they commemorated their experience with a photo. Olson said the spillway in the background shows the dam’s improved condition by highlighting a high pool elevation in the midst of significant flooding concerns in Iraq.
“This project has provided the perfect opportunity for me to apply leadership lessons I began learning in Mines’ Army ROTC program as well as the technical knowledge from my geological engineering bachelor’s degree,” Olson said. “The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers offers a lot of challenging opportunities, but this one being so specific to geological engineering was special.”