U.S. commander: Iraq’s Mosul dam on verge of catastrophic collapse

Special to WorldTribune.com

The potential for a collapse of the Mosul dam in northern Iraq is real, according to the commander of the U.S.-led coalition fighting Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL).

“The likelihood of the dam collapsing is something we are trying to determine right now … all we know is when it goes, it’s going to go fast and that’s bad,” U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Sean MacFarland told reporters in Baghdad.

The Mosul dam requires constant grouting to maintain its structural integrity.
The Mosul dam requires constant grouting to maintain its structural integrity.

MacFarland said the U.S. military is working on contingency plans for dealing with a possible catastrophic collapse of the dam, which for several weeks in the summer of 2014 was controlled by ISIL. Kurdish Peshmerga and Iraqi forces, backed by U.S. air strikes, recaptured the dam in August 2014.

Officials say the hydroelectric dam’s foundation requires constant grouting to maintain structural integrity.

“If this dam was in the United States, we would have drained the lake behind it. We would have taken that dam out of commission,” MacFarland said.

While ISIL is no longer a clear threat to the dam, coalition spokesman U.S. Army Col. Steve Warren said the terror group had stolen equipment and chased away technicians.

“There was a steady grouting schedule that had been maintained for a long time. When that stopped, obviously the deterioration of the dam increased accordingly,” he said.

The Trevi Group of Italy is finalizing a contract with Iraq to upgrade the 3.6-kilometer (2.2-mile) long dam, which has suffered from structural flaws since it was built in the 1980s.