Shirlee Zane, the chairwoman of the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors, is set to appear before a Congressional panel in Washington, D.C., this week to discuss the county’s efforts to better manage its water supply and respond to major storms.
Zane will testify Wednesday at 10 a.m. Eastern time at a hearing of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources’ Subcommittee on Water and Power. The hearing will focus on boosting water security and preparing for drought.
“This idea of water and how we can work together regardless of our party is so instrumental to the health and safety and economy of our communities,” Zane said in an interview. “It’s a local issue, it’s a state issue, it’s a federal issue and it’s a security issue, too.”
The supervisor said she “couldn’t be more excited” to discuss county water security and preparedness work that has been ongoing for about five years.
Zane intends to tell senators about two initiatives led by the Sonoma County Water Agency, of which she is also a board member. One is a proposed management strategy focused on Lake Mendocino that would help managers use data to decide when to retain water or release it from the reservoir on the upper Russian River.
The other initiative is a project that will provide the Bay Area with new radar technology to more precisely forecast atmospheric rivers, the powerful storms that provide the Russian River watershed with about half of its major rainfall, according to the Water Agency.
Yet funding for those efforts is threatened by potential federal budget cuts, including to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which provides critical forecasting data and modeling through the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center, according to the Water Agency.
Zane intends to advocate on Capitol Hill to preserve that money, as well as funding from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that supports the reservoir-management initiative.
The subcommittee members who will hear Zane’s testimony include Republican senators Jeff Flake of Arizona, John Barrasso of Wyoming, James Risch of Idaho, Mike Lee of Utah, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Rob Portman of Ohio and Luther Strange of Alabama.
Democratic-aligned subcommittee members include independent Angus King of Maine, Democrat Ron Wyden of Oregon, Independent Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Democrat Al Franken of Minnesota, Democrat Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Democrat Tammy Duckworth of Illinois.
Zane was invited to testify by the Energy and Natural Resources committee chairwoman, Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, an ex officio subcommittee member.