Advocate file photo by RICHARD ALAN HANNON -- Pelicans perch on a shrinking grove of mangrove trees earlier this year on Cat Island in Barataria Bay southwest of Port Sulphur. A coalition has been formed to present business case for coastal restoration in Louisiana and ensuring oill spill and federal funds allocated to Louisiana are spent on their intended purposes.

A business-led coalition has been created to promote sustainable restoration efforts in Louisiana’s wetlands, rivers, deltas and coastline.

The Coalition for Coastal Resilience and Economy was announced Thursday by Greater New Orleans Inc. Its members include business executives from the greater New Orleans region, Baton Rouge and the Terrebonne-Lafourche regions.

“Water is the existential issue for southeast Louisiana,” said Michael Hecht, president and chief executive officer of GNO Inc. “Our region has a take-it-or-leave-it opportunity to make strategic investments in the environment today that will ensure continued economic growth and opportunity tomorrow, and CCRE will help ensure this happens.”

“With the coming influx of funding from the RESTORE Act and other oil spill-related settlements, we have a unique opportunity to ensure the continued prosperity and sustainability of southeast Louisiana,” said coalition Chairman Marty Mayer, president and CEO of Stirling Properties. “The issues ahead of us are more than just environmental challenges — they are economic, civic and cultural.”

CCRE’s mission is to promote the business case for coastal restoration in Louisiana; maximize RESTORE Act funding and other federal funds that are allocated to Louisiana and ensure funds are spent on their intended purposes; and create opportunities to engage local businesses and workforce in implementation.

Funded by the Walton Family Foundation, CCRE will support a “three-legged” approach of coastal restoration, structural flood mitigation and nonstructural flood mitigation.

Emerging from the philanthropic efforts by Wal-Mart founders Sam and Helen Walton, the foundation invests in domestic and international projects that address significant social and environmental issues.

“We believe smart restoration projects, based on the best available science, will create economic opportunities for southeast Louisiana now, and for generations to come,” said Kristin Tracz, program officer at the foundation. “The business community is critical to advancing coastal restoration, and the Walton Family Foundation is proud to support the CCRE as part of the growing chorus working on these issues.”

CCRE members will participate in sea plane and boat tours of Louisiana’s coastline to learn about the challenges and opportunities for southeast Louisiana.

Members include Justin Augustine, regional vice president at Veolia; Dale Benoit, owner of Print-All Inc.; Rita Benson LeBlanc, owner and vice chairman of the board of the New Orleans Saints and Pelicans; Sharon Bergeron, vice president of commercial lending at Coastal Commerce Bank; and Donna Fraiche, founding member of Baker Donelson’s Louisiana offices and former board member of the Louisiana Recovery Authority.

Also, Fran Gladden, vice president of government and public affairs for Cox Communications’ southeast region; Philip Gunn, managing director of the New Orleans Office of Postlethwaite & Netterville; Will Hales, assistant vice president at IberiaBank; Tara Hernandez, president of JCH Development; Merritt Lane, president and CEO of Canal Barge Co. Inc.; and Jay Lapeyre, CEO of Laitram LLC.

Also, G.F. Gay Le Breton, managing director of Chaffe & Associates; Brandon Nelson, vice president of commercial banking at Whitney Bank; Mark Spansel, partner at Adams and Reese; Lizette Terral, president of JP Morgan Chase Bank’s New Orleans region; Mickey Thomas, president and CEO of South Louisiana Bank; and Brent Wood, state government affairs manager at Chevron.

“Partnerships such as these allow the state to engage business interests and other stakeholders so that we can work together to achieve our goals of restoring and protecting this valuable resource, coastal Louisiana,” said Jerome Zeringue, executive director of the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority.