The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been ordered to stop work on the $319 million Grand Prairie Irrigation project until it makes a more thorough study of its possible impact on the ivory-billed woodpecker.

Federal Judge William R. Wilson today issued a preliminary injunction in a suit filed by the National Wildlife Federation and the state Wildlife Federation against the Corps and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Wilson said the defendants “failed to properly follow recommended procedures” set out in the Endangered Species Act when they agreed to monitor the project as work was ongoing rather than study the impact in advance. The irrigation project will will pump water out of the White River for farmers who are tapping out the aquifer.

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The judge’s order requires that impact studies be made at the area around the pump site and along waterways that will affected by lowered water levels, and the inspection of trees for evidence of ivory-billed nesting and foraging evidence.

Both the Corps and FWS stipulated to the existence of the bird, rediscovered in 2004 in the Bayou de View area of the Cache River Wildlife Refuge.

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PS — Coincidentally, we understand the Legislative Council is going to take up the Grand Prairie project tomorrow on account of burgeoning costs and unanswered questions.

Wildlife Federation news release on the jump

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