The Sacramento Municipal Utility District?s 500 MW power project will not come on line this August as expected because of claimed shoddy and slow work by the lead contractor, who was fired at the end of last week. The earliest opening date of the generating facility being built near the shuttered Rancho Seco nuclear plant, according to SMUD, is early 2006. The delay in the plant?s operational date is not expected to affect this summer?s power outlook because it wasn?t forecast to be on line, said Jim Shetler, SMUD?s assistant general manager of energy supply. The Cosumnes plant will increase the amount of utility-owned generation by 40 percent, reducing its reliance on imported power. The district terminated its contract with Fru-Con Construction Corp. on February 11, after weeks of unsuccessful negotiations to get the project back on track. ?There were significant scheduling delays and concerns about the quality of work,? Shetler said. The dispute came to a head during final piping and the laying of the electrical cables. Poor workmanship was said to include a high rate of pipe weld rejection, and the fact that the contractor laid off 100 pipefitters this winter, while the pipe assembly process was at full tilt, SMUD asserted. A call to Fru-Con seeking comments was not returned before press time. The firm?s Web site states it is one of the largest construction and engineering companies in the U.S., whose ?reputation is built on a solid foundation of results, strength and integrity.? SMUD signed a $108 million deal with Fru-Con and paid the firm $80 million, which it considers the value of its services. ?There will most likely be a dispute over payment,? Shetler said. Construction of the Cosumnes plant, begun in 2003, is 70 percent complete. In place are the boilers, combined and steam turbines, and water cooling towers. SMUD is now negotiating with the existing subcontractors and new contractors to complete construction of the generating plant.