Woodpecker Habitat Could be in Danger

Posted February 6, 2006--5:00 pm CST

Jonesboro, AR--A federal judge will soon decide on whether to put a halt to construction on a giant pump connected with theGrand Prairie project.  The pump would help siphon over 158 billion gallons of water to farmland around the Stuttgart area.  For years animal activist and conservationist have argued that the project could break the circle of life in the Cache River National Wildlife Refuge, making native plants and animals out of place in a new and different environment.


The arguments heated up last year when it was announced that the first ivory billed woodpecker in nearly fifty years was spotted in the wetlands.  The bird was on the extinct list at that time but not resides on the nearly extinct list.  Many people are hoping to help bring the bird back to a healthy population and fear that messing with its environment could seriously harm their efforts.  Today these people took their case to a federal judge.


The case was held in a federal courtroom in Jonesboro and the judge made clear early that no decision would be made today.  Both sides argued their case.  The US Corps of Engineers say for every month the project is stalled they could lose up to 264 thousand dollars.  Animal activist saying there is no coming back from extinction, and therefore work must be stalled until there is enough information to proceed.


Meanwhile just over one hundred miles away billions of gallons of water sits in the Cache River Basin.  If the project is completed the water there now would be nearly a foot lower on average throughout the year.  The change in the water level could have a catastrophic effect on wildlife from fish to large mammals.


Just to the south of this area are farmers looking for a way to irrigate their fields.  Department of Justice attorneys say one study says underground aquifers could run dry as soon as 2009, leaving rice farmers with nothing but dry fields.  They say the project is needed in order to help these farmers and also to help save the underground aquifer.


A decision should be made by weeks end.