After 16 years of debate and nearly US$20M of study, the proposed King William reservoir in Virginia, US, may not get off the ground due to concerns about the American shad.

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.