After a flare up of attacks on U.S. forces in western Iraq near Hit and Hadithah cost 21 U.S. Marines their lives in the first few days of August, authorities shut down electricity production at the big the Hadithah Dam on Aug. 3, as well as on related work on a 400 KV transmission project, and sent Iraqi workers home until "security improves."

Fortress. Hadithah Dam's power output may suffer from shrapnel sucked into turbines.(Photo by Kimberly Johnson)

"The shut down is due to concern for the workers’ safety given some attacks earlier," was the explanation in an Aug. 4 advisory to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officials and contractors engaged in reconstruction. "The dam itself has not been damaged. When the security situation improves, operations should resume," the advisory states.

The combined nameplate capacity of the dam’s six turbines is 660 MW, but just before the shut down, during a site visit by ENR at the end of July, dam manager Hasaan Yehea Hasaan said output was limited to two turbines, with four out of service. One has a broken blade that could keep it out of commission for up to a year, he says, adding that the plant needs about $5 million in repairs.

However, Hasaan also says the dam’s best output now is 440 MW, which suggests at least four turbines are functional, although a Corps spokesman in Baghdad says Central Iraq Corps District officials were unavailable to respond to a request for information about the dam’s current condition due to the security situation. The Corps does not keep full time staff at the facility, he says, dding that operations were turned over to the Iraqis some time ago.

Hasaan
(Photo by Kimberly Johnson)

More than a year ago, On June 3, 2004, the Corps reported the facility was fully operational and running at capacity for the first time since 1990 after a $12-million rehabilitation, overseen by CH2M Hill Cos. Ltd. A spokesman for CH2M Hill declined to comment on the rehab project, saying company policy prohibits discussion of work when employees or others affiliated with projects could be put in harm’s way

Hasaan says one of his operational problems is that U.S. Marines who bunk inside the massive concrete structure draw attacks. Insurgents fire mortars at the 20-year-old rockfill dam almost daily. The 57-meter-high, 8,933-m-long dam includes a concrete spillway and powerhouse that protects its equipment and the Marines bunking there from direct fire. But mortar rounds landing in water behind the spillway explode underwater, sending shrapnel into the turbines. Hasaan believes shelling would stop if the Marines left. “They do not attack the dam, they attack the American army,” says Hasaan. “I want the Marines to leave today.”

U.S. Marine Maj. Karl Gordon, who manages the Marines’ relationship with dam officials, says troops provide security for the dam and eventually will turn it back to Iraqi control. But he says there are no immediate plans to do so.

Useful Links:

The McGraw-Hill editor who filed the Hadithah Dam interview report above, Kimberly Johnson, is an editor at ENR's sister publication, Aviation Week. She is currently embedded with the 2nd Marine Division in Iraq covering aviation and construction issues. In addition to filing reports for both magazines, as well as Platts, McGraw-Hill's energy sector information service, she is producing a regular blog at: http://moab-iraq.blogspot.com.

There are a number of agencies and authorities generating regular and special reports to describe the complex picture of reconstruction in Iraq. Taken together and revisited regularly, they provide a nuanced view of the constantly evolving situation. Here are few that have proven particularly useful to editors at ENR.

  • U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
    The Corps of Engineers Gulf Regional Division website at http://www.grd.usace.army.mil produces a steady stream of quality, up-beat reports on specific reconstruction activity, as well as links to resources for companies interested in doing business with the Corps. The site's purpose is to get the good news out, and its information is detailed and valid and deserves broad circulation, but, as with any single source, it is not covering the whole story.

  • U.S. Dept. of State
    Another, regular, weekly status report that gives a broader view is produced by the Dept. of State each Wednesday. It covers all the sectors of reconstruction and tracks changes from week to week. Each week's report, as well as additional information about the program and reconstruction in Afghanistan as well, can be found on the homepage at http://www.export.gov/iraq/

    There is no readily searchable archive for prior reports, but as the direct links change by the date code for each issue, earlier reports can often be fished for by changing the date. For example, this direct link below delivers the report issued on the first Wednesday in August: http://www.export.gov/iraq/pdf/state_wklyrpt_080305.pdf

  • USAID
    The U.S. Agency for International Development also tracks its projects in regular reports at: http://www.usaid.gov/iraq/updates/

  • General Accounting Office
    A more analytical source of broad reconstruction status information is to be found in the U.S. General Accounting Office's quarterly reports on reconstruction to Congress. The findings are often based on data several weeks old by the date of issuance, but taken together with the more current Dept. of State weekly reports; an updated understanding can be obtained. Go to: http://www.gao.gov/ Search on "Iraq" for the quarterly reports to Congress.

  • Office of the Special Inspector General
    Finally, the Congressionally designated Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction has ongoing authority to inspect the books. The I.G., Stuart W. Bowen, Jr., reports to both the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of State and also submits quarterly reports to Congress outlining key findings and progress, as well as deficiencies and the corrective actions taken to improve reconstruction programs.

    Bowen's resources are limited and do not include investigators working in Iraq, but his access to data appears to be unimpaired. His spotlight on the accounting is usually focused on one operational area in the multi-faceted program at a time, but the findings are insightful and unsparing. Find them at:http://www.sigir.mil

For comments about this article please contact Tom_Sawyer@McGraw-Hill.com