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WILL THE KERN PIPELINE BE FINISHED ON TIME?

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Forest Service officials say the 11th-hour bell is tolling for Kern River Gas Transmission Co. in the mountains above Bountiful.

"There's no way they'll be finished by Oct. 10," said Michael Sieg, Salt Lake district ranger for the Wasatch-Cache National Forest. "I'd like to bet my paycheck against Cuba's on it." Cuba Wad-lington is the executive vice president of Kern River.Oct. 10 is the deadline the Forest Service set for completion of the Wasatch section of the company's 900-mile natural gas pipeline from Wyoming to Southern California. Forest officials have said they'll issue a "stop work order" if Kern River doesn't finish construction and revegetation on time.

Company schedules show only 8 percent of the pipeline from the top of Holbrook Canyon to the bottom of North Canyon has been laid and buried. None of the cleanup, seeding and revegetation has been started. The apparent schedule lapse is even worse for construction plans from the bottom of North Canyon to the gravel pits in North Salt Lake. (Please see accompanying chart.)

Despite the schedule reports and a 21/2 workday loss to heavy rainstorms two weeks ago, Kern River is confident crews will meet the deadline.

Workers hauled several tons of plants and trees to the site this weekend but have not begun planting because the vegetation needs to acclimate, said Kern River spokeswoman Susan Flaim.

Once planting begins later this week, workers will vegetate about 2,000 feet a day.

"It's in our best interest to meet the deadline and we're confident we'll do so," Flaim said.

Crews also are working seven 12-hour shifts a week to get the work done, and helicopters are flying workers to and from the area to save travel time, she said.

Skepticism swelled earlier this summer over a Sept. 1 clearing and grading deadline. Forest Service officials predicted crews were 20 days behind schedule and could not make up the days in time to clear and grade the 12.5-mile stretch.

But Kern River crews working overtime and through the holiday finished that work a day before the deadline.

"(The Oct. 10 deadline) is somewhat the same as the clearing and grading deadline," Wadlington said. "The odds were in someone else's favor when the bets were placed on whether or not we would finish on time. And we finished it a day early."

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Progress report

Kern River Gas Transmission Co. progress report through Davis County, as of Sept. 29, from the bottom of North Canyon to the gravel pits in North Salt Lake.

Construction phase % complete

Clear and grade 100 percent

Ditching 100 percent

String and bend pipe 0 percent

Lay and weld 0 percent

Pad and fill 0 percent

Clean up 0 percent

Seeding/reclamation 0 percent

Note: Crews have stockpiled pipe at the gravel pits to expedite stringing.

Source: Kern River Gas Transmission Co.