U.S. Water News Online
LITTLE ROCK-- A lawyer for conservationists opposed to a
$320 million irrigation project in east Arkansas says the U.S. Army
Corps of Engineers is trying to get around a federal judge's order
for more environmental study.
"The corps is trying to short-circuit environmental review," said
John Kostyack, an attorney for the National Wildlife Federation.
U.S. District Judge William R. Wilson halted the Grand Prairie
Irrigation Project on July 20 and ordered a study of any ivory-bill
nests and forage sites within 21/2 miles of the White River
construction site. Wilson also ordered surveys in areas near canals
and pipelines for any evidence of nesting, roosting and foraging.
The federal agencies, though, want to complete the purchase of
$5.1 million in pumps and motors and want to finish a fence along the
site of a $35 million pumping station being built near DeValls Bluff.
They also want the judge to allow irrigation work to continue on six
Kostyack said he is confident the group will prevail in its
objections to the latest request from the Corps and the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service to proceed with the parts of the project that aren't
expected to affect the rare ivory-billed woodpecker. The agencies
asked Wilson for permission to proceed.
Conservationists have two weeks to respond to the request.
Kostyack said he did not expect Wilson to rule on the motion for
The National Wildlife Federation and the Arkansas Wildlife
Federation filed the lawsuit, alleging the irrigation project to
bring water to about 1,000 farmers in east Arkansas would harm the
The pumping station is less than 20 miles from the Big Woods area,
where researchers claim to have spotted the ivory-billed woodpecker,
which had been thought extinct.
The project calls for construction of canals and pipes to bring as
much as 115 billion gallons of water a day from the river to farmers
in the Grand Prairie, who had been using an underground aquifer that
is drying up.
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