Mike Kelly joined WaterSMART as a Special Advisor in May 2011. He has worked in the area of environment-economy linkages on issues ranging from consensus decision-making and organizational structure, to fisheries, wildlife, agricultural practices, air quality, climate change, power generation, and international trade. He has degrees in psychology and political science from the University of Iowa.
Mike’s primary focus at Alberta WaterSMART has been on the Bow River Project, a collaborative water modeling project involving water managers and others to identify and assess opportunities to improve environmental conditions while supporting population and economic growth in the watershed. He is also involved in a larger project to examine climate variability and the potential impacts and feasible mitigation options for the Bow, Oldman, Southern Tributaries and South Saskatchewan River to the provincial border.
Mike retired from TransAlta Corporation in 2008. During his ten years at TransAlta, he was head of Environment, Health and Safety for several years and later, head of Water Resource Development. As head of EHS for a power generation company with coal, gas, hydro, wind, and geothermal assets in four countries and many regional/local jurisdictions, he dealt with most of the environmental issues facing our society today. He helped to create a cross-cutting team of General Managers from each power plant in all jurisdictions that was forged into Target Zero, an all-out effort to eliminate injuries for employees and contractors. During his tenure at TransAlta, he was also one of the founding members of the Alberta Water Council and later served as Vice President of that organization, representing industrial interests.
Prior to joining TransAlta, Mike was one of the founders and first Executive Director of Alberta’s Clean Air Strategic Alliance (CASA). Some of the early successes of that organization were the establishment of Airshed Zones that increased air monitoring effectiveness and transparency; a project that reduced Solution Gas Flaring and helped resolve the intense social stresses caused by it in the 1990s; another project mapping and monitoring SO2 deposition and creating the SO2 management plan, developing the management plan for assessing and addressing toxic air emissions, among many other emission management and reduction projects.
Mike served on the Secretariat to the National Task Force on Environment and Economy, which established Canada’s response to the United Nations Commission on Environment and Economy, otherwise known as the Brundtland Commission. He was involved in the creation of the National Round Table on Environment and Economy, which originally reported to the Prime Minister and had as members four federal and two provincial ministers, as well as numerous CEOs, and senior environmental and private sector appointees. Some of his more memorable projects include the Sustaining Wetlands Symposium and supporting papers, supporting environmental set-asides into the agricultural portions of the GATT negotiations, supporting changes in tax law to allow for deductions for donating environmentally sensitive lands for preservation, and attending UN discussions on the floor of the General Assembly.
During the early 1980s Mike worked at the Environment Council of Alberta, supporting public hearings panels, preparing background publications, and traveling the province during province-wide public hearings conducted by the ECA.
Early in his career he worked in the North, working on demographic statistics and the economics of fisheries, trapping, and domestic resource use. Participating in a review of a proposed hydro-electric facility on the Churchill River in northern Saskatchewan, he conducted surveys and prepared extensive material for the largely Metis Northern Municipal Council, several local First Nations communities, and the Northern Trappers Association. The hydro proposal was eventually rejected, conserving a significant portion of a rich, historic river system, used by explorers and the early fur trade and for thousands of years before by aboriginal people.
Mike became fascinated by environmental connections and water when he discovered a tiny rich prairie creek not far from his home in Iowa at the age of eight. Brewers Creek had no housing in sight and held all manner of insect life, tiny fish and crayfish and supporting a variety of birdlife, foxes, and infinite imagined adventures. He later discovered another, larger creek on the other side of town, White Fox Creek. It turned out to be full of smallmouth bass enabled by cool springs and forested cover. Thus began a lifetime of fishing, mostly catch and release since the bass were feisty but small.
Mike volunteers as Chairman of the Board of the Bow River Basin Council. He moved to Alberta in 1979, and lives with his wife and son in Cochrane, Alberta, overlooking the Bow River.