Grand Prairie project awaits fall in White River

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - It's been more than a year since a federal judge ruled that a woodpecker couldn't stand in the way of the Grand Prairie Irrigation Project. But a top official says it will be several times that long before rice and soybean farmers in the region can use water from the White River to irrigate their crops.

Paul Hamm, project manager for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said current plans call for the first water to flow into farmers' fields in 2013. After three earlier suits delayed the project, yet another suit was filed in federal court in September 2005, claiming the project would damage habitat of the ivory-billed woodpecker.

But in December 2008, a federal judge threw out the woodpecker lawsuit, clearing the way for work to resume. Last year's record rainfall has delayed resumption of work. The White River is still out of its banks, and officials say it will be three or four months before it can start again.

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