Seeking to avoid potential conflict of interest, State Engineer Robert Morgan has ordered a Provo engineer who once worked for the designer of the Quail Creek Reservoir dike not to probe causes of its Jan. 1 failure.

Morgan's directive involves Bruce Barrett, one of the engineers appointed by Gov. Norm Bangerter to investigate the southern Utah dike's New Year's Day break. A 12-foot wall of water surged down the Virgin River after the failure, flooding low-lying areas of St. George, 14 miles to the west.Damage reached $12 million, including about 100 flooded homes and riverside apartments, numerous vehicles and farm animals. No injuries were reported.

Barrett is a former employee of Rollins, Brown and Gunnell, Inc. of Provo. Ralph Rollins, a principal in that firm, has been identified as the designer of the dike.

Richard Hall, state director of dam safety, said he and Morgan had been advised of the relationship by Barrett before he was selected for the team. But they said they were convinced it did not represent a conflict at the time.

Citing time constraints and the integrity of the review process, Morgan has since ordered that Barrett not probe for causes of the dike failure. Instead, Barrett now will focus only on finding potential solutions for rebuilding the Quail Creek dike.

All five members of the investigative team will now participate in fact finding, but one part of the group will focus on why the dike failed, while another part will look at possibilities for reconstruction.

In addition to working for Rollins, Brown & Gunnell before leaving for a post as a geotechnical engineer with the federal Bureau of Reclamation, Barrett also worked with Rollins at Brigham Young University, where Rollins taught classes and Barrett was a student.

"Bruce Barrett was asked to join the review board because of his expertise in diaphragm-wall construction," said Morgan.

"This new technology is being used to repair the leaking Fontenelle Dam in southwestern Wyoming. Mr. Barrett was heavily involved in that project, and we think his expertise is very important to the Quail Creek review," Morgan said.

Meanwhile, the Utah Department of Transportation Commission has begun its own probe of damage to highways and bridges caused by the dike failure.

Sections of U-9 linking Zions Park and the community of Hurricane with St. George via I-15 were washed out by the dike break, and a bridge on the highway was damaged.

Bids have already been opened by UDOT and the contract for repairs awarded to Gilbert Western Corp. of Murray, agency spokeswoman Shirley Iverson said Thursday.

The company's lowest bid indicated it would undertake the project for $471,352.