The Sonoma County Water Agency has received a $255,132 grant from the state Department of Fish and Game toward the design of a new fish ladder and viewing chamber at the Russian River near Forestville, where the agency has an inflatable dam as part of its pumping operations.

It is part of a $4.9 million project to replace the fish ladder, construct a viewing gallery and build new screens to keep fish away from the water agency's pumps. The project is projected for completion by 2014.

The design work is expected to cost $745,000.

The water agency has an inflatable dam at the site, which is raised during low-flow months to create a pool for the agency's pumps.

A new, longer ladder will allow easier passage upstream around the dam for coho salmon, which are an endangered species, and chinook and steelhead, which are on the threatened list.

The viewing chamber will be used as part of the agency's education program, allowing a half dozen people at a time to be able to watch fish swim through the ladder, said spokesman Brad Sherwood.

The new screens are being required by the federal National Marine Fisheries service to protect coho, chinook and steelhead from the water agency intake pumps.

The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors are being asked to accept the grant on Tuesday.

— Bob Norberg