Seabees help water flow to Iraqi crops

15 Aug 2003 | Army Spc. Melissa Walther

Navy Seabees helped replace the last vital piece to the irrigation system of the farming community of Kish, Iraq that has been missing for months on Aug. 15.

Members of Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 15, Air Detachment, based in Kansas City, Mo, helped install a 1.3-megawatt generator at the Kish Water Lift Station that provides water to about 50,000 hectares of farmland in the area.

"The people are very positive about this," said Lt. j.g. Dan Niec, NMCB-15 assistant officer-in-charge.  "I think this will provide a lot of potential for the area."

The large generator, which had to be moved into place with a crane, was refurbished in Kuwait this summer and transported to the city of Ad Diwaniyah to wait installation at the plant.

Currently, only one of the two pump houses at the lift station is operational.

"We're hoping to have the second station open in a week to 10 days," Niec said.  "Mostly it's been local contractors doing the work of restoring the station. We did some recasting of the foundations, though."

Fashioning the concrete foundations was necessary to raise the pumps high enough so they could operate properly.

"Originally, the station was supposed to be reworked in 2000 but the parts they ordered didn't fit and the people didn't know how to make it work, so they abandoned the project."

When Niec and his men got to the second pump station, the entire basement where the machinery was located was flooded.

"We had to build a damn to get the water out so we could start work," Niec said. 

Using mostly hand tools, the Iraqis have been rebuilding the old, abandoned parts and cleaning off years of rust in order to get the pumps back up and running.

"I'm very impressed with the Iraqis," said Niec.  "They're very resourceful.  I'm amazed they've done so well with the tools they have."

"They pay a lot of attention to detail," added Petty Officer 1st Class Patrick Santen, a steelworker with NMCB-15.  "I didn't think they would be able to do it," he said of the restoration project.  "I'm amazed they've done so well."

According to Santen, who works as a millwright in his hometown of Mascoutah, Ill., there are plans to renovate a nearby water purification plant as well.