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Bayji Power Plant breathes life into Iraq

By SPC Ismail Turay Jr. | 1ID | May 09, 2007

BAYJI, Iraq As part of its efforts to bolster security and the economy in Northern Iraq, the 1st Infantry Division partnered with civilian companies and the Army Corp of Engineers to repair the Bayji Power Plant complex.

The facility, which is comprised of three power plants, once generated 1,300 megawatts of power. But after the first Gulf War, Iraqi officials were unable to get parts to maintain the plants because of sanctions levied against the country.

The three plants were generating a little less than 400 megawatts of power prior the American-led invasion of Iraq last year. Since then, coalition forces have worked diligently to repair the complex, which was one of the major power sources in the nation.

In August, it was generating about 800 megawatts of power, said Capt. David Unger, electricity adviser with the 415th Civil Affairs Battalion.

The complex produces power for hospitals, schools, factories and thousands of homes, said Maj. Daren Payne of the Army Corp of Engineers.

This is breathing life in all of Iraq, he said.

Added Daniel Juracek, civilian construction representative with the Army Corp of Engineers: It tremendously helps the local economy. Almost all the contractors are local.

The plant employees 2,000 locals, 1,200 of which are permanent, said Unger, a Texas resident. As of August, the 1st Infantry Division had spent more than $1 million on parts for the plant.

Aside from repairs to the 500-acre complex, security was a major issue. Its fence had gaping holes that serve as a gateway for looters who frequently stole equipment and supplies from the power plant, Unger said.

To remedy that problem, the Big Red One spent $450,000 to build a 12-foot wall around the entire complex. That project created more than 700 jobs for locals, as six different contractors who submitted the lowest bids worked on the wall simultaneously, Unger said.

Additionally, the division implemented an identification card system for all employees.

There are plans to build guard towers and fire equipment, Unger said.

The 1st Infantry Division also built a health center for workers on the complex, and it plans to refurbish the local sewage system. Both projects will cost a combined $360,000, Unger said.

We know that if the workers are healthy, they will want to come to work, he said in explaining why the division invested in the clinic.

Basin Al Janabi, the plants assistant director general, said the work the Army has done on the plant is invaluable. But more work needs to be done, he said.

The plant is expected to be fully operational by the end of 2005, Payne said. (Story by Spc. Ismail Turay Jr., 196th MPAD)

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