State scientists and regulators are recommending that the US$160M project not be built as designed. Among other environmental concerns, they fear that a large intake pipe sucking millions of gallons of water from the Mattaponi river would harm key spawning grounds for the fish.

Shad live in the ocean but spawn in coastal rivers and creeks from Canada to Florida along the Atlantic coast. Although the fish was plentiful decades ago in Virginia, its numbers are now counted by the hundreds. Virginia banned the harvest of shad from all rivers and the Chesapeake Bay in 1994. The state hoped the action would restore stocks ravaged by decades of pollution, overfishing, and the effect of dams that block spawning runs.