Judge Halts $320 Million Irrigation Project in Favor of Woodpecker

JULY 20, 2006 - Posted at 12:22 p.m. CDT

LITTLE ROCK, AR - A federal judge has temporarily stopped a White River irrigation project in eastern Arkansas, saying it may disturb the habitat of the ivory-billed woodpecker.

U.S. District Judge William R. Wilson acknowledged controversy over whether the bird exists, but said that for purposes of the lawsuit he ruled that it does.  He said federal agencies may have violated the Endangered Species Act by not doing further study on the bird's habitat that could be affected by the $320 million project that began last summer.

Environmentalists brought the lawsuit against the Army Corps of Engineers and the Interior Department.  The Army Corps began the project to provide water to farmers who have been using an underground aquifer that is going dry.

(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)