June 4, 2005

Work to Resume Near Rare Arkansas Woodpecker

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plans to resume construction Monday of a pumping station on a river just miles from where the ivory-billed woodpecker, once thought extinct, now lives.

The corps said Friday that it had completed a biological study of the area around the pumping station on the White River and found that continuing with the project is unlikely to adversely affect the rare bird.

The ivory-billed woodpecker was spotted on the nearby Cache River last year. Researchers announced the discovery in April after spending months working to confirm its existence. The secretaries of interior and agriculture said the federal government would spend millions of dollars to protect the bird's habitat.

The pumping station, which would draw water from the White River to irrigate farms, is near the town of DeValls Bluff - about 50 miles east of Little Rock.

The corps said it was resuming construction based on the station's being "a fair distance" from bird sightings and because "only a small amount of bottomland hardwood forest would be cleared in periphery areas that are unlikely to be used by the ivory-billed woodpecker."

Environmentalists disagree, saying any change in the nearby habitat may affect the woodpecker.

Environmentalists have lost lawsuits against the corps to stop the project.