Press Releases

The Water Institute of the Gulf announces three new board members

Aug 10, 2021

BATON ROUGE, La. (Aug. 10, 2021) – The Water Institute of the Gulf is thrilled to announce the appointment of three new members to the board of directors – Dr. Earthea Nance, Merritt Lane III, and Dr. William J. “Bill” Merrell.

“Earthea Nance, Merritt Lane, and Bill Merrell bring years of experience and dedication to applied science, conservation, engineering, and policy to the Institute’s board,” said Justin Ehrenwerth, Water Institute president and CEO. “We are honored to welcome them to the Institute as their collective knowledge will help guide our expanding team as we support our many partners in Louisiana, the Gulf of Mexico, and beyond.”

Dr. Earthea Nance, associate professor in the Barbara Jordan-Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs at Texas Southern University, is a certified floodplain manager and a registered professional civil engineer with more than 15 years of experience as an environmental engineer. She has an additional 14 years of experience in academia, where she combines environmental engineering and social sciences, and explores the intersection of environmental hazards, community participation and urban infrastructure. Previously, Dr. Nance served as an assistant professor of environmental planning and hazard mitigation at the University of New Orleans.

After Hurricane Katrina, as New Orleans worked through recovery, Dr. Nance served as the Director of Disaster Mitigation & Planning for the Mayor’s Office and offered her expertise in disaster mitigation and environmental management. During a three-year period, she raised and managed over $59 million in recovery-related grants, created new municipal divisions in hazard mitigation and alternative energy, and spearheaded the development of citywide plans for sustainability and hazard mitigation. In recognition of her contributions, Dr. Nance was presented a Key to the City of New Orleans.

Dr. Nance continued her service after Hurricane Harvey, where she served on a team of flood experts (the Greater Houston Flood Mitigation Consortium) that produced a definitive body of evidence on flood risk, recovery, and mitigation, as well as recommendations for elected officials throughout the Houston region. Dr. Nance was recently appointed by Harris County Commissioners Court to serve on the Community Flood Resilience Task Force, established to ensure that Harris County develops and implements equitable flood resilience planning and projects that take into account community needs and priorities.

Merritt Lane, who serves as President, CEO, and Chairman of the Board of Canal Barge Company, Inc., has been involved in inland waterway management in Louisiana and across the country for decades. Mr. Lane has served as Chairman of the American Waterways Operators and the Waterways Council, Inc. and currently serves as a board member of the National Waterways Foundation and the U.S. Coast Guard Foundation.

He is also on the board of Pontchartrain Materials Company in New Orleans; and he formerly served on the Board of Directors of Hibernia Homestead Bancorp. Mr. Lane is active in numerous civic, educational and philanthropic organizations, including service on the board for The Nature Conservancy of Louisiana and on the Executive Committee of the Bureau of Governmental Research and the Business Council of New Orleans & the River Region. He was celebrated for his commitment to conservation in the book and documentary, Rancher, Farmer, Fisherman: Conservation Heroes of the American Heartland.

Dr. Merrell is Regents Professor in marine sciences at Texas A&M University at Galveston and holds the George Mitchell Chair in Marine Sciences and is President Emeritus of the Galveston Campus. His nearly four decades of work focuses on large-scale ocean physics, coastal processes, hurricane impacts and more recently, coastal sustainability, disaster mitigation, and recovery. Dr. Merrell is the only person to have been awarded the Distinguished Service Award of the National Science Foundation twice. His knowledge and experience in Texas and around the country will be a tremendous addition to the board of directors.

In addition to welcoming these three new members, the Institute recognized the many contributions of two of our founding directors – Ambassador James Joseph and Dr. Chip Groat – who have rotated off of the board after making many invaluable contributions and guiding the Water Institute from its inception. From 2011 to 2017, Chip Groat served as the Water Institute’s founding president and CEO and remained on the board for an additional four years following his retirement. Ambassador Joseph served as a director for nearly a decade, providing wisdom and consistent leadership around using applied research to make vulnerable communities more resilient.

“The Institute is extremely grateful for Dr. Groat and Ambassador Joseph’s dedication to and leadership of the Institute,” said Institute board chairman Kevin P. Reilly, Jr. “Their vision set the direction for the Water Institute of today and our continued growth is a testament to their many contributions.”

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