Peter Kolesar DC
Peter Kolesar in his element - lecturing about the challenges to upper river ecosystem if New York City reservoir releases don't recognize those needs. PHOTO BY MEG MCGUIRE

Peter Kolesar gets Lee Wulff Award
The Catskill Fly Fishing Center & Museum has announced that Peter Kolesar has been given the 2021 Lee Wulff Conservation Award.

| October 14, 2021

Kolesar is Professor Emeritus at Columbia University and Special Research Scholar in the Water Center of Columbia’s Earth Institute, but better known in the Upper Delaware River for his work on the water released from New York City’s reservoirs, and the effects of this on the upper river ecosystem, especially on cold-water-loving trout.

“The Lee Wulff Conservation Award was established in 2003 and recognizes an individual who has made a significant contribution to the preservation of wild gamefish and their habitat through protection of the waters, catch and release and/or education programs for youngsters,” the announcement states.

The executive director of the Friends of the Upper River, Jeff Skelding, said of the honor for Kolesar:

“Peter Kolesar and Jim Serio played an enormous leadership role in making sure the management of the NYC reservoir system took into account habitat and fishery concerns in the world-class wild-trout tail waters below the NYC reservoirs. Their work in the creation of the Flexible Flow Management Program established a systematic, and science-based approach that assured both a safe water supply for NYC and ecological protections downstream of the NYC reservoirs.” 

The basin has long been roiled by — often behind the scenes — arguments among various stakeholders, and the fair distribution of NYC reservoir water has been the source of significant dispute. 

Kolesar’s research on water policy was the foundation for the Delaware River Basin Commission’s and New York City’s implementation of the Flexible Flow Management Program, using complex modeling and algorithms to manage the water releases. His FFMP design aimed to statistically balance the water needs of NYC and down-basin users with the desire for flood mitigation in the Delaware Valley — all while enhancing the ecology of the upper river to benefit its wild trout.

“Most people look at the river and see how beautiful it is,” said Kolesar, “but what I see are numbers!”

More recently, Kolesar contributed to the design and implementation of the thermal mitigation protocol that has been included in the FFMP since 2019. That’s another complicated process to use some New York City reservoir release water to keep upper river water cool enough to benefit trout, and the larger ecosystem.

Not surprisingly, Kolesar, who lives by a pond in Eldred, N.Y., is an avid fly fisher and wildlife photographer.

Meg McGuire

Meg McGuire

Meg McGuire has been a journalist for 30 years in New York and Connecticut. She started in weekly newspapers and moved to full-time work in dailies 25 years ago. She knows about the tectonic changes in journalism firsthand, having been part of what was euphemistically called a "reduction in force" six years ago. Now she's working to find new ways to "do" the news as an independent online publisher of news about the Delaware River, its watershed and its people.

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