Bids were opened Friday afternoon for emergency repairs to U-9 in Washington County, a vital road washed out by the Quail Creek flood - and guess who won? Maybe nobody.

Kim Morris, spokesman for the Utah Department of Transportation, said it is possible that none of the eight companies that bid will get the project. This is true even though the low bidder submitted an offer that was $30,000 lower than the official engineering estimate.Morris said that while Gilbert Western Corp., Murray, offered the apparent low bid, officials have decided to hold off on awarding a contract. Instead, engineers with the Utah National Guard will travel to the St. George area to see whether the Guard can do the job quicker and less expensively.

The project is intended to provide emergency repairs to the link between St. George and Hurricane, a heavily used road that heads from I-70 to the south entrance of Zion National Park. A section of the road was wiped out New Year's Day when the Quail Creek dike burst.

Flooding caused an estimated $12 million in damage to homes, bridges, highways, farm operations and pipelines. A stretch of U-9 was ripped out and the 50-year-old concrete bridge over the Virgin River at Hurricane was ruined.

In addition to gouging a huge gap in the embankment beyond the end of the bridge, the flood moved and weakened the structure.

A 200-foot portable bridge is to be installed over the Virgin River as part of the project, allowing two-way traffic. It will be used for about 18 months as the old bridge is repaired and rebuilt.

Eight engineering companies entered bids for the U-9 project, but Morris said the Guard engineers will examine the road damage and see if they can do it faster and cheaper. Repair work on the highway could begin as soon as next Thursday, Morris said.

Meanwhile, State Engineer Bob Morgan moved Friday to split the team of experts studying the dike failure into two sections, to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest.

One member of the four-member team, Bruce Barrett of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, is a former employee of Rollins, Brown and Gunnell - one of the firms that designed the dike.

Morgan said that a public perception of potential conflict of interest could hurt the review process. So he asked that Barrett work on the part of the investigation that involves finding solutions for rebuilding the dike.

Barrett will not be part of the study that focuses on the cause of the dike failure, Morgan said.