The National Marine Fisheries Service unveiled today a wide variety of changes proposed for the operation of lower Columbia River hatcheries and their releases of fall chinook, coho and steelhead.

In summary, the changes would result in a moderate reduction in fall chinook production, shift some coho from the lower Columbia River to central Washington and tweak winter and summer steelhead stocks primarily in Southwest Washington streams.

Rob Jones, chief of NMFS’ hatcheries and inland fisheries section, told a conference call the changes are part of a 20-year process to operate hatcheries in a way that do not impede recovery of salmon and steelhead listed under the federal Endangered Species Act.

However, the planning for future hatchery programs has been given impetus by a lawsuit from the Wild Fish Conservancy challenging the hatchery operations.

Jones called the proposals “the next generation of hatchery operations.’’ They will be formalized by mid-January.

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