MUMMERT: Uh--the following is an oral history interview conducted as part of the
Tennessee Valley Authority Retirees Association Oral History Project. The person
being interviewed is Roger Bollinger. He is a retiree
of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). And he worked at--uh--the Tennessee
Valley Authority for 31 years between June 1961 and October 1992. He is being
interviewed by Philip Mummert as part of the Oral History Project. Uh--the
interview is being conducted at Norris Community Library in Norris, Tennessee.
Today is Thursday, March 23, 2017, and the interview is now beginning. Uh--well
hello Roger and thanks again for--uh--doing this and interviewing.
00:01:00I'd like to, in my first question just simply ask you to--uh--describe to me the
circumstances that led to your being hired at TVA.
BOLLINGER: Well, after I got out, I spent 4 years in
the U--United States Navy during which, coming from a small town in Arkansas, at
that time. Um--I always, long as I can remember back in my time--um--I always
wanted to go into forestry. And--um--while I was in the Navy and getting ready
to get discharged, I was making arrangements to go to a college in--uh-Arkansas
where I would have gone into like a forestry technician level
00:02:00training, and uh--I but ran into the woman who became my wife down in
Jacksonville, Florida where I was stationed at the--uh--end of my career with
the Navy. And--uh--I got married right after I got discharged. And--uh--she
couldn't get a decent paying job in the state of Arkansas, so we decided to--I
decided to go ahead and change my plans and--and go to Jacksonville University
and then transfer down to the University of Florida the next year, which is the
way things turned out. And which was a good thing because I went to a much
better credited college in the forestry department. And during my
00:03:00time--with--in college, and of course I had to review, this, that and the other,
and--um--one of the things I found a book in the library was about the first 20
years of TVA, and they had a whole chapter dedicated to forestry and the
forestry department of the agency. Which then was one of the biggest
conservation agencies in the country if not the world. And--um--from what I was
reading in that book, particularly, gave me a focus on or a background on TVA
and a focus on forestry that seemed to fit my thinking. And
00:04:00then--uh--the senior--year or no, about--about the junior year we were in summer
camp, which was part of the requirements at the time. And--um-we came up--at the
end of the camp period, we came up for a tour of the southeastern region in
forestry and so on. We went to places like Biltmore Estate, the Forest Service
and different--um--um--forests in the region-- the southeastern region. And one
of the places we spent two nights was here in Norris, Tennessee, with TVA. And
that gave--whetted my appetite really to think more seriously about TVA as a
possibility for employment. And the next, in my senior year, no there
00:05:00weren't many jobs at that time in forestry when I got my bachelor's degree, so I
decided to go on another year and try to get my master's degree in forestry. And
then well maybe the job market might improve and son. And during the course of
the year--uh--TVA sent some people from forestry down to evaluate phosphate mine
lands--phosphate lands in Central Florida that TVA owned. --Uh--tied back to the
Ag--ag--agriculture Division. And--the of the people in the group there was the
director of the forestry program, Kenneth Seigworth.
And as he was-- as they were leaving and thanking the--uh--forestry
00:06:00school director, they mentioned they were looking for some people in forest
management that they would might want want to talk with. And they said we've got
a person who's working on his master's degree right now, and we'll let him know.
Which--uh--the director of the school at that time called me into the office
before the day was over and let me know what was transpiring. And I had a letter
off to TVA that night. And the only job I had had at that time, if you can call
it an offer, was the only job interest even with the master's degree was--uh--I
think with the Forest Service on the Mississippi National Forest.
00:07:00And--uh--oh--and I think they had left an application which I had mailed in
along with a letter stating my interest in TVA. And it turned out
that--uh--within 2 weeks I had a job offer from TVA, and I took it. I snapped
them right back a letter and says hem "I'm raring to go." And then--uh-- at that
time, they were going to put me in the Asheville field office with TVA's
Di-Division of Forestry and Fisheries and resources I think it was then. Um--we
had several field offices from Asheville out to West Kentucky.
00:08:00And--um--lo and behold a few weeks really before I graduated or got my Master's,
the--uh--uh--manager of the Asheville office, he and his wife were going down to
Florida for vacation, and they stopped by and took my wife and I out to dinner
and said if they could help find us an apartment or whatever, let them know. And
I thought gee, this--this--these people--these people sound like a good outfit
to belong to. So, anyway, that's how I got, I--re--graduated in June and June
12th I was to report to Asheville, North Carolina. And then they gave me a few
days there and then came over here to Norris and--uh-- got oriented
00:09:00into the agency or into the TVA's Forestry program and then back to Asheville
and that's where I spent the first couple of years.
MUMMERT: Now, what business did TVA have in forestry? It's--uh--known
as--uh--agency that has dams on the river and--uh--produces electricity.
And--could you explain a little bit about--uh--why TVA was interested in forestry?
BOLLINGER: The TVA Act that Congress passed in the 1930s specified that TVA
would be responsible for the--uh--watershed of the Tennessee River, which covers
portions of seven states. It was to be all encompassing as to what we
00:10:00would be--what the agency would do in the region from power
production--uh--navigation and--uh-afforestation of the region, and that's why
they had a forestry program spelled out by the broad terms of the TVA Act. Of
course there was agriculture and all these other facets of the agency at that
time. Fertilizer production was a big--big thing. And I think the third item was
producing power, which today is the only item that they do and continue to work
on. Even though the Act spells out things differently, but nobody seems
to worry about that anymore. But nevertheless, that's why they had a
00:11:00forestry program. And in that program they were concerned about improving the
forests, getting more and more landowners and the state divisions of forestry
and--um--we were--we had to cooperate with, work with them throughout the
region, throughout the seven states--and--uh--try to do those things that the
states weren't doing at that time. And in the 1930s one of the big things was,
we were coming out of the Depression--um--or the nation was, and the southeast
had a lot eroded of lands and so on. So what do you do, you get involved with
tree planting. And then you ought to raise the question where do we
00:12:00get the trees to plant in all these problem areas within the region? So TVA
built--had two nurseries I think at the time. One was over here at--uh--Eagle
Bend just between here and Clinton, Tennessee.
And--um--we were ab--produced millions of seed--tree seedlings over the years.
And orig--started out with donating those to the landowners to plant on their
properties where they had eroded hillsides--uh--depleted farmland and just being
in valley and mountain areas--uh--of the region--uh--was quite a problem. And as
the TVA was building the dams to control flooding from in the spring
00:13:00and maintain a water--uh--level throughout the system--uh--we were going out and
developing relations with the state divisions of forestry and finding out where
they were the strongest and where they might have some things that TVA could
help them implement throughout the region. And most of our states at that time
did not have the capability to producing seedlings and that kind of thing. So,
that was one of the early things we got involved with.
Then we would work with the state--through the state divisions and the counties
throughout the valley region in promoting--um--better management of the local
forests and so on.
MUMMERT: So you began work at TVA, and then in 1961 and you started
00:14:00in Asheville, North Carolina?
MUMMERT: What--uh--was your first job like--uh--what were some of those things
that TVA did to help out, I guess, what the State of North Carolina?
BOLLINGER: Yeah, well, one of the--one of the big things in Western North
Carolina at the time was municipal watersheds. And cities had--uh--to maybe they
would build a reservoir, and in the watershed, drainage area of that reservoir,
for instance, they would acquire the lands, and we would help them--um--develop
a forest management plan. And encourage them to apply to the
00:15:00watershed area and protect the dam they had constructed to get water for their
cities, and what have you. And one of the first assignments I had in the
Asheville field office was--um--further west. Near--um--at Andrews, North
Carolina, they had a small watershed and dam, and they were--needed some help on
inventorying it and finding out what they could do to combine forestry and
watershed protection efforts--uh--to help clear water storage areas for the city
in the small town of Andrews, North Carolina. This was over toward--between
Asheville and--and--um--Murphy, North Carolina. And--um--so I had to
00:16:00design an inventory plan for the watershed there and I think that was a couple
2,000-3,000 acres. Um, anyway, it ran from the city, which is down in the
valley, all the way to the top of the Smoky Mountains and--um--going over
towards where Fontana Dam was at that time, too. And--um--so and then helped do
the actual inventory itself. Other things we had to do that came out of the
Norris headquarters of the forestry division. Um--we--um--we had several
privately-held forests by the time I came to work with TVA. Um--who
00:17:00were landowners and the state forestry people and we at TVA were working with to
promote local forest management demonstration areas. And we'd go out and arrange
meetings in the field, and invite people in and so on try to spread the word in
that fashion. And--um--.
MUMMERT: And this would be if in case--uh--you were a--a private landowner that
had, say, a lot of forested area. This would help them to--uh--do those things
that were desirable to maintain the f--forest--for their own benefit as well as
the forests, I guess.
BOLLINGER: That's right. And--um--and we would put out some plots in some of
these locations for fertilizer--um--studies. Um--we would--uh-one of
00:18:00the big things that came from the headquarters in Norris was a program to
reforest seven states in seven years. This was picking up from earlier
activities in the region, giving out seedlings, and so on. Um--well, and one of
the big efforts at the time--um--was before I came to work with TVA, was they
got involved with the states in trying to upgrade the states' capability for
fighting for--wildfires--forest fires. Which in the original years at TVA, ten
percent of the valley burned over every year. And um--that was--that was,
amounted to tremendous acreages that were being burned from--ev--year
00:19:00to year to year.
MUMMERT: Was that completely accidental or in--or it was--uh--intentional
burning--or maybe a combination?
BOLLINGER: A combination of a lot of things. Um--burning was one was way to
clear the ground for growing crops, and improving grass cover for cattle and so
on I guess. So they would just torch off the hillsides or whatever and let it
go. And--uh--the states were just becoming--moving into forestry activities
themselves. And so we had some projects that we got directly involved with
taking movies out into the field at the time about the importance of
00:20:00controlling fires and minimizing the amount of burning that was going on in the
region--um--well before I ever came to work with TVA back in 1930s and early
1940s and so on. And--um--and I guess in the early period of TVA, there--there
was logging and sawmilling and major problems. There were a lot of little,
small, portable sawmills that--um--loggers would set up and cut timber off
private properties, for the most part. And--uh--and so there was--
00:21:00we--uh--a lot of the old timers in the forestry division would tell us how they
would go out and take movie projectors and films with them and so on. And they
had a little generator they'd set up on farms and forests in--throughout the
region to promote firefighting as a good way to control these wildfires.
And--uh--so but by the time I came to work with TVA, then it was--uh--we were
moving on to some other facets, but we were still running the
nurseries. And we were developing the genetics program
and--um--and-working with the states and--and promoting f--better
00:22:00forest management throughout the region--and--um--for our field office areas
wherever we were. And--um--and one like I say, mentioned a minute ago was plant
trees; grow jobs got to be a big project with the states. And--uh--we had to--it
went back to a lot of these little forest management demonstration areas where
we--were--had with cooperating private landowners. And--um--and particularly
with pine seedlings and trees--um--we tried to develop ways to encourage the
states to get more involved in creating and growing jobs is really was what we
were trying to accomplish.
And--we'd--t--we'd go back and inv--and make--run a quick--in--quick inventories
at some of these places and some of the mine plantations that our records
indicated. And--um--send out information into Norris, to the headquarters
here--area. And our research analysts would produce little leaflets that said
plant trees, grow jobs, and told you--what--how fast the for--the trees would
grow and what they could produce and how much income you might derive from them
over a 20 or 30-year period. And--um--so we--we spread all that information
around the locations and try to encourage --uh--more tree planting
00:24:00with the states. And--um--and as part of that effort we came--somebody came up
with the idea we needed to maybe go out and hire real salespersons to do this
kind of job. So each of the region, each of the field offices had to work with
the states. And--I remember, Ralph Vogenburger, who was our Asheville office
manager. He and-he--he was with TVA. And our offices were d--in the--the old
city--the city building in downtown Asheville and whatever, and down
the--uh--hall from us was the State Division of Forestry--re--uh--
00:25:00local office. So, our--sup--manager--and--what was that--region---um--district
office, district forester for the state, _______ I think was his last name. But
I had to go down to Raleigh and propose, we would--we would pay for the
salesperson, but he would really be assigned to the state office and work
through them. And--um--but be confined, but be focused on actually going out and
selling tree seedlings to landowners. And--um--.
MUMMERT: Now, were--and--now TVA and the state worked--uh--well together,
or did the state feel TVA was interfering or-or
00:26:00really--uh--supplementing--or their expertise?
BOLLINGER: Well, I'd say, generally speaking, we got along well with the state
divisions of forestries. They of course I think were basically interested in
getting funding from TVA to beef up their activities. And--uh--for the most
part, I'd say we got along really well with them. We had field offices, we had
local people out there, local employees that dealt with the state divisions of
forestry people. And--um--generally worked well. I'm sure on occasion there
would be some differences of opinion and I'm sure sometimes they
00:27:00thought we were trying to push them into areas they really didn't want to move
into. But, generally speaking they--we--we had a smooth working relationship
with the states.
MUMMERT: And it was in those--n--it was through those new areas--that I guess
the state received some funding from TVA. --Because there was something new like
the salesperson or--.
BOLLINGER: Salesperson, where we would fund that. Umm--though they would more or
less have some supervisory oversight on that effort. And from that they
would--um--then we'd have a little meeting maybe monthly or something with them
to see how things were going. And--we didn't really interfere greatly
00:28:00with how the sales--the--salesperson we hired in--in North Carolina, he was a
great salesman. I mean he could sell a button off your shirt and you not even
know it. And--um--and I don't know how, at the time we--we did this for one
season, and he made money, you know, in a way. From directly going out to
landowners and beating on the doors and selling them seedlings. And--um--it
worked really well. And in fact in one of the--I think our field
office--our--the salesperson we had sold more seedlings than you
00:29:00could shake a stick at. And he did really well, and I think the state
appreciated his efforts. And he kind of worked with more directly with
their--the field foresters that the state had in the general area there.
Um--and--they helped give him lots of leads and so on. They got him started,
and--um--so on, but most--uh--I think he outsold every other sales
forester--salesperson that the different dist-- the field offices employed.
There were about seven in the field offices I think at that time. But--uh--and I
got--had--wr--to sum up--had to write a report on what--the--on the outcome
there, and submit and it had to go through of course to the office
00:30:00manager back to Norris and so on. And--uh--and we never got a--we never got
feedback on that. And we finally found out through the grapevine, that--uh--and
this was probably one of my first introductions to--uh--office politics, but the
word got around that we were never to mention that sales function, we being all
the field offices, for whatever reasons. And--uh--so--we never did, but I--in my
report, but I don't normally use a piece of profanity even in talking with
people--um-- but I said this guy--this--in summing up the results of
00:31:00this guy, he said--uh--he'd like to sell seedlings to the next year, just on a
commission basis. I mean he was doing that well. And--uh--but we--we had--we
terminated it as he knew he was going to lose his job after this planting season
was over but--uh--. He--I said--in--in summing up the report I said: "He did one
hell of a job." And I thought, well, I may get in trouble, and my boss,
Vogenburger, then said I'm going to leave it in there because he
did. And of course they always had field
00:32:00office manager meetings where they would bring the manager into Norris and so
on. And--um--so he knew what the others had accomplished, which I don't know,
either what but they probably weren't as good as this guy we had. But--um--of
interest--that was one aspect that we were able to help fund and help promote
more seedling sales in--in Western North Carolina than with the state support,
in--in had a job that finished up well above most of the other ones.
MUMMERT: Now, that was your--um--first assignment at TVA, and you were in
Asheville how long?
BOLLINGER: I was there about 2 years.
MUMMERT: Okay--uh-- before we--uh--before I continue into the next
00:33:00phase of your career, could you give an overview of, just a sketch of your whole
career at TVA--um--in terms of--uh--the different major assignments you had
after you left Asheville?--And then I'll ask you about each one of them.
BOLLINGER: Alright. --Um--I'd say about half of my career with TVA was in forest
management-related activities. This might--and--I was located in Asheville
originally, and I went up, was transferred up to Big Stone Gap, Virginia a
couple of years later. And--um--.
MUMMERT: Now that's--that's in--uh-- southwest Virginia, which is in
00:34:00the Tennessee Valley. The watershed--
BOLLINGER: The watershed area. The Clinch and Powell River watersheds up there.
And--uh this was at the point of time when strip mining was really being
castigated throughout the country. Um--and so a lot of my work while I was in
Big Stone was focused on coal mining and--and reclamation-related activities.
And then a couple of years later, I was transferred down to Norris, Tennessee,
and to fill a kind of a training-level function and as division personnel and
budget officer. A complete change of anything from having to do with
00:35:00forestry or whatnot, other than--um--dealing with people that were foresters
or--uh--fisheries and--uh--related activities. And--um--it had nothing
whatsoever to do with field work or any of that type of thing, and I was in that
position for a couple more years. And--uh--then I was moved back into the
forestry program itself. And I was again still in Norris and--uh--spent several
more years there. In Norris in the forestry program, and kind of working with
the field offices on the various projects and so on--um--relating to
00:36:00better forest management with the private landowners and working with the
states. We developed some programs--uh--where we got private landowners and
municipal forest owners--uh--who would pledge a certain amount of timber
production off their properties to attract a larger industry into the region. In
this case it turned out to be a huge saw mill operation and they had a
guaranteed source of wood, and then they would be buying wood on the open
markets from a lot--lots of other owners. And--um--so it was these kinds of
things, we were-- we were always looking at was. Managing forests is
00:37:00not just to protect a single-use function, it's--it's how can you grow trees,
cut trees down and sell the wood for lumber and whatever and--um--but do it in a
sustainable manner--and--um--over a period--a long period of time because trees
take a long time to grow. Here in the southeast I'd say hardwoods is a 100-year
rotation. And then you would have thinings during that period. And then you'd
have four different, about four different ways that you can manage the wood
for--manage the forest to produce wood either by clear
00:38:00cutting--um--single tree selection--uh--group selection or you might go out and
clear cut a small unit of the property periodically. And always be having a
chance of some income but also maintaining the forest structure--um--for
wildlife and related recreational benefits, or just knowing you got some
property out there that is well managed and useful.
MUMMERT: So when you--uh--left Asheville, well--you--I--you left Big Stone Gap,
and you came to Norris (Tennessee) you were still involved in a lot of the
variety of forestry-types projects, but you were also kind of a
00:39:00manager--or a coordinator for the field people?
BOLLINGER: Coordinator I would say, for the field. And--um--and so I meant I had
to do lots of travelling. Well one of the things about going when I got
transferred to up Big Stone Gap Virginia--um--we still--I still had directives
and things I had to do for the headquarters there--here in Norris. And--uh--but
as I said at the time--um--a big function of mine was to work with coal mine
operators and try to encourage them to consider and built-in reclamation
activities with their chopping off the mountaintops.
MUMMERT: And these were-- these were active coal operations at that time?
BOLLINGER: And this was back during the days--that--if you've ever heard of the,
now I can't remember right off hand. It was--it--a lot of the problems were
little old ladies who would lie down in front of a bulldozer cutting down the
surface area above the coal seams, and rolling boulders into homes and tearing
up the countryside, and change--changing the whole world in southwest Virginia,
and of course Kentucky and so on. And--uh--there were no--there really were no
laws requiring reclamation. Uh--some of the states had the law, but
00:41:00they weren't well-enforced. And--uh--so we--we--were trying to, we had--a--this
was before I got to southwest Virginia, but anyway there was a--we had one
company we dealt with trying to figure out what the cost of reclamation really
would be relative to how you were selling your coal and--and mining it.
And--uh--so I kind of had to ride--work with that company on an--on an almost
day-to-day basis--um--keeping track of that. And the TVA Board at the time was
beginning to get concerned because we were one of the biggest coal
00:42:00buyers in the country. Uh--just due--after World War II, when we had to build
more and more coal-fired steam plants and so on to generate
electric--electricity--to provide for the lands in the region. And that--uh--and
I mean there was a lot of erosion going on, there's a lot of streams that were
being--um--spoiled from the mining operations itself was being pushed into and
creating a lot of problems. --Um--and that was--that was I was in on kind of the
tail end of a lot of that. But it was where we were gathering information
to be able to present to the board from time to time, as they raised
00:43:00questions about what was going on and why we didn't have any better say
in--uh--where we were buying coal and to be sure that the mining would be done
in an environmentally safer way.
MUMMERT: And that was--and we're talking about in the early 60s, mid-60s?
BOLLINGER: This would be in the early to mid-60s.
MUMMERT: That would have put you in an interesting position. I mean on the one
hand you were to the coal miners you were a representative of the company that
was buying the coal, but on the other hand you were the guy that was the
conservationist, I guess, that might--uh--come up with some ways for them to
have to spend more money. Did you find--uh--that the coal companies
00:44:00were--uh--viewed you as a welcomed visitor or--um--or not or it was hard to tell
it depended on the time and the situation?
BOLLINGER: Um--no, it was not hard to tell, I can tell you that. Sometimes you
couldn't even get into the company's higher echelon offices, much less the
president. And--uh--and even and with this one company up near Wise,
Virginia--um--they were doing-- well they had both underground mining activities
and then--uh--strip mining activities. And--uh-- and he was kind of
00:45:00fairly open-minded, that particular president he--he listened. And he could see
that you know, they were creating problems, but you know, they had to consider
at that--I mean, regardless of how these mine coal and sell it, and make an
income off of it. And the coal industry's always been one of, or I guess the
mining industry as a whole has always been up and down on--on--on how much
profit you could turn every year or so. But they were, you know, they had a
sharp pencil, too. And it was just an--an interesting thing. And I remember
some--going up to some of these mines during rainstorms and see where
00:46:00the water was going and so on and where their efforts, even in just trying to
control that short-term runoff. And it was, appalling at places. If you could
get them just to better control the run-off, you don't put sediments into the
streams, which is going to impact your fisheries and your mussels and what have
you--um--and at the same time to be able to make a profit. You know, we were
trying to--to determine that. And this company opened its books and--uh--showed
us what they were doing and how they were doing it and so on. And they made some
changes, particularly handling their runoff from rainstorms.
00:47:00And--uh--and--we finally came up with the fact that if--if TVA sold you coal, we
would put into the contract that you had to reclaim the area you disturbed
for--um--. Bought the coal. Um--and that was a proposal that I think went--went
up to the board eventually. And was because there was no state laws or minimal
effort at even enforcing the state law, if they had one, or whatnot.
00:48:00We finally found that about 6 percent of the cost of producing the coal, if he
set that aside, that would be all they would need to re--reclaim it at that time
to a--to a even a minimal level of control and--and reclamation.
But that eventually, and I guess one of the guys I had started out with in
Asheville, North Carolina, Al Curry, who was--uh--put in charge of coming up
with all this standards that TVA might put into the contracts, cause only way we
could effectively change of course is through a level process, which was a
contractual agreement. And--um--I don't remember when that was really
00:49:00passed. That was somewhere around, the board was becoming more concerned. And
the Chairman at that time, which was Aubrey (Red) Wagner--um--was pushing the
board to do something where we were buying coal to effect some measure of
reclamation. So, all these little things we had going on like up in southwest
Virginia, and I guess the Kentucky field office once in a while got involved. I
had to go over into Kentucky from time to time and even up into West Virginia
and--um-- and try to encourage more people to get involved in the
00:50:00better aspect of the mining function. Cause it was going on whether we liked it
or not. And the board finally said we will imp--we will require, the
con--through the contract, and working with the Division of Law, whatever, we
helped to develop the standards that would go into the contract and require
them--uh--and--and recommend that somehow those would have to be enforced by
staff to be sure we were getting the reclamation to these particular standards
of--of water control, revegetation, and so on.
MUMMERT: Was that--uh--did that put TVA on the cutting edge at that point?
BOLLINGER: Yes, more than the cutting edge.
MUMMERT: But there wasn't that--that kind of practice anywhere else in the
country that you know of?
BOLLINGER: No, and so the board said this is what we will do. We will put
standards in our contracts and we will assign people to go out and inspect those
areas where our coal was coming from, and the company had to specify where they
were mining and where they shipping that coal to us. And--and we would work,
begin our efforts--do and I think we did a lot of work with Howard
00:52:00Baker at that time who was a senator. Um-- to begin looking at how you
could--how the Federal Government could get involved and--um--require this. At
the same time I think we were sa--saying to the states you have to get involved
until there is a fed--national or a federal law. And--um--so there were a lot of
activities that I wasn't at my level that I wasn't greatly--directly involved
with, but I--we certainly helped gather the information that led to the
board--board eventually saying this is what we are going to do and this is how
we are going to do it. And we're going to use power funds to fund it.
00:53:00And--uh--after my time doing this with the forestry activities things,
I--uh--was moved over into the reclamation program area in the Division of
Forestry. And--um--I think a part of that was because of my background up in
southwest Virginia. --Uh--I knew what a coal mine looked like. And--uh--and the
board said we will set aside from the payments we make to the company six
percent of the prices of coal we were paying for. And that money will
00:54:00be used to encourage the mine operator, if he wanted to get that 6% back, to do
the reclamation to the standards we had incorporated into the contracts, we
being TVA. And--uh--the board looked power in the eye and said you and will pay
that, that's coming out of your funds. It was being transferred into forestry's
budget. And--uh--and that's where we learned that we were originally, most of
our activities were funded by congressional appropriations. And then over here
where power was, that was funded by the sale of power to the region, or
the valley-wide area, or actually the power service area, which has
00:55:00gone beyond at that time well beyond the valley itself. And--um--when I went
ov--transferred from forestry efforts over to power over to
the--uh--um--reclamation--uh--uh--unit in--in the forestry program. Um--I was
then funded under power funds. So, there's two types of money in TVA that---.
MUMMERT: Did that mark really, the--the board's decision to do that, did that
mark the beginning of the reclamation program or was that--was there some
reclamation work--that preceded that?
BOLLINGER: There was some reclamation work going on, preceding that.
MUMMERT: But it was more like hidden under the forestry--in the forestry or? Not
hidden intentionally, but--
BOLLINGER: It was not intentional. It was just--they were beginning to recognize
there's a problem out there and we're a part of that problem, and we're going
what can we do to help solve that problem and that's--. And then when--and when
we got--when the board made the decision this is how we are going to do this, it
will be funded by the power program rather than congressional appropriations
because it's directly related to power production.
MUMMERT: So the reclamation program then but it--it put you in a position of
focusing on, as a part of your career on reclamation of primarily--uh--mining
activities. Um-- and you said that was almost half of your career of
00:57:0015 years or so?
BOLLINGER: Yeah, about half and half between congressional funding and power funds.
MUMMERT: After the board made that decision then, explain to me--tell me about
that part of your career and the changes that you were able to be a part of in
BOLLINGER: Well, one, that put us in the position of--uh--where we began to work
more and more with TVA attorneys, who pulled together all these things into the
contracts and you know. Then we had to work more with the--um--um--the
power program interests that were more interested in things other
00:58:00than just the reclamation activities and so on. They didn't really appreciate
the fact they were going to have to pay us to go out and inspect these things
more and so on. And then at times--um--if an operator would fail to do the
reclamation and so on, we would give them a warning that if we were going to
have to take over the reclamation activity on that particular area. If
there--there--there was anything left over from the 6% we were withholding from
the sale, purchase of that coal and that disturbed land relative to
00:59:00our coal purchases. That they could either do it, or we'll do it for them and
take it out of that 6%. --And then that got us into the actual reclamation
activity, the whole process and everything.
MUMMERT: What were the--uh--let's say--uh--there's nothing typical probably,
what are the typical elements of a reclamation plan for a--a mining operation?
What types of activities might have been done to reduce their negative
impacts--p--planting trees maybe, but beyond that?-- Alright,
the--uh--reclamation program, when you--there's nothing I guess
01:00:00typical about any mi--mining operation. They are all different in some way or
another. But--um--if you could explain to me what--uh--the are the different
types of elements that you would consider in doing a reclamation plan for a
typical mine activity. Uh--we have talked about planting trees, but what other
sorts of things might be--or controls be important?
BOLLINGER: One how, well, I think one of the first considerations is how you are
going to mine this particular area. Um--.
MUMMERT: Well, that's important the rec--so--the reclamation plan--the
reclamation plan starts before the mining begins.
BOLLINGER: What are you going to do get down to the
seam of coal? The seam of coal, essentially, particularly in the
01:01:00mountains, well, let's see, you got--you'd have open-pit mining type activity if
you wanted to consider digging down to where the coal bed is, which
is--uh--uh--seams that would run through a mountain. And over geologic
time--uh--of course the mountain would erode away and create the valleys in
the--in the--in the--upper part of the landscape. And so if you were doing
mountaintop re--mountain mining for coal, you would have to decide
01:02:00what you were going to do with the spoil, the material that lay above the coal
seam and how far back into the mountain you would actually shave off if you
would and then move that spoil somewhere. Would you, originally, all they did
was come around the mountain and where mountain mining was involved,
and--um--just push it over the side of the mountain and let it fall where it
may. And--had--and--early operations had no consideration on what may be the
ramifications of that type of spoil handling or mishandling if you want to
term it that way. So you would have to start really before you knew
01:03:00where the seam of coal was. They probably had drilling operations up, went
across the landscape and told you where the coal seam began and where it would
end or how far back into the mountain could you afford to shave off that portion
of the mountain, and then remove the coal and then walk away from it. That was
the early way of mining. But, if you did enough of that in the area or region,
you would decimate a whole mountain at some point in time. And that moves you
from--uh-- strip mining around the side of the mountain to actually
01:04:00removing the whole top of the mountain, maybe recovering two or three seams of
coal in the process. So what, you know how are you going to handle that to begin
with and then what are you going to do with the spoil? And then what are you
going to do if you go from just creating a ring around the mountain--uh--versus
removing the whole mountaintop and still and then going back to contour? So
there was some other areas that we would work--try to work through mine
operators to say how do you want to do this, and how would you be able to handle
the spoil, and how would you be able to revegetate the area to
01:05:00minimize any--uh--erosion and the results to whatever's lies below you and to do
it safely and--uh--with concern for people's homes and things that would you
know be below the mining operation itself.
And--um--I remember going to the board one time, well people in our reclamation
program in the division--um--we--we'd have to go to the board once in a while to
tell them what was going on and--and. The other thing we would do also, maybe
prior to that point was we'd have to go out and evaluate the plans
01:06:00that the operation where we would be buying coal from had for reclaiming things.
And this as the state laws improved, and I think improved because of the push
that TVA was making at the time with the states and with the feds to ultimately
have a national coal mine reclamation standard that--uh--. We encouraged a lot
of this. Of course we were the bad guys probably in--in some respects there. But
and I think this--uh--the argument that the industry, the coal mining industry
itself says if everybody has to do this, then we can work
01:07:00competitively together in a way that will affect reclamation. But if we are
going to have people down the road that don't have to the same stan--meet the
same standard, that we're going to object to it. But keep in mind we do not want
to make--do not want to spend more money than we need to because we got problems
in selling coal and what have you. And we don't like having to have all these
contract requirements that you people want to impose on us, but if we gotta have
it, we gotta have it uniform.
MUMMERT: What different--uh--states did TVA--uh--coal come from?
BOLLINGER: OK. Alabama, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Ohio,
Illinois. And I think that was where the bulk of our
coal came from early on. And later on as the standards, through and the
standards through public pressure, were calling for more and more
01:09:00care in handling the coal and the mining process--um--uh---increased--um--things
would get more and more difficult. And by that I mean--uh--one of the big
problems with mi--coal mining is you get--you have some coals--or coal seams
that are--have more acid associated with them,
and--um--and acid can affect water quality below the d--the coal mining areas.
It can affect--uh--soil PHs and makes the revegetation costs go up.
01:10:00Or in some cases and an example of that would be back in the early days of
copper mining down in southeast Tennessee near Copper--Copper Hill,
Tennessee--uh--you could have so much acid from Sulphur associated with coal, in
this case it was with copper mining, you could denude an area over time. Because
the acidification process would lower the PH in the soil to the point where
nothing could grow in it. The same thing can go on with coal mining--um--so you
would have to handle that acid problem and probably
rebury the associated-- uh--stuff left from actually mining--picking
01:11:00up coal and moving it out of the way as not so that you could c--you could
control some of that acidification during the reclamation and regrading, or
putting the area back to contour, or covering it over. And so that meant you
may--might want to consider, well what do you do with the topsoil. You got to
shave that off and set it aside. And then be able to bring it back in and cover
it over so that your plant your veg--revegetation of grass or trees or whatnot
can be reestablished sooner and--um--and so on. Also, when you are re--when
you're moving around your spoil material, you have a swell factor
01:12:00like three or four times whatever you've moved--um--and so you'd compact some of
that down. And then that causes more problems because then the roots can't get
down in there as well. And--uh--so--so it's not an easy fix to anything.
MUMMERT: Are there any--uh--particular reclamation projects--uh--stick out in
your mind as being--uh--t--uh--let's say, tremendous successes or unique--uh--in
one way or another?
BOLLINGER: Well, some of the projects that we worked on with the--with the
cooperators in the industry that knew how to move--how to handle spoil and so
on, than just their normal mining functions. The ones we--we would
01:13:00have some cooperative programs with and super--and not supervise but--uh--maybe
a better term is to build a work cooperatively with them about where you put
this, that and the other, and then move it and be such in a way that you could
more efficiently put it back in place or cover it over. Um--I think those
cooperators were--were kind of setting--helping to set the standards for future
operations. And--uh--and I think that's what transpired and went--went on, even
though they would scream all the way to whatever to try to postpone that
activity, as they had to change it down through the years.
01:14:00But--uh--it's--uh--dollars and cents wise, that's--that's what it boils down to.
MUMMERT: How many people did you have working on the reclamation program?
BOLLINGER: Um--I think I had about six people, a couple of professionals and
then--um--and people we trained to go out and inspect the areas, and so on and.
And--and one of the interesting things was, one of the guys back came in one day
and he says "You know, I went out there to this outfit a couple of weeks ago,
and they were--uh-- smoothing things up and getting ready to do the
01:15:00revegetation process." And he says "I went back the other day and they had the
whole area was mulched with hay" and so on. And he says "for some reason or
other I kicked some of that aside, and I could find no seed on the ground." I
said you go back tomorrow and tell them you want to know what--how much seed
they put out and where it was. And then tell them they had better get the seed
on the ground and not-l--not bypass that--that expense right there. Because if
there is no seed there, that mulch isn't going to do any good to anybody.
And--uh--so that's what he had to do. And he did and the operator finally says:
"Well, I guess we will have to go and buy more seed." But and then
01:16:00there were a few cases where we actually had to go out and make some
arrangements to get the land reclaimed. And that meant we had to go--we had to
work with the lawyers and--uh--as the TVA law--lawyers to just to begin that
process, and let them know what we were doing. And if they wanted--wanted us to
go ahead and do it, with the contract to work out and--uh--follow through. And
there was more than a few cases that we had to do that. Sometimes that--just
saying that--sitting down with the company and the company lawyers, this is what
you have to do under the contract and now, how do you want to do it
01:17:00or do you want us to do it, type thing. And that was never comfortable.
MUMMERT: Now, did you get involved in any reclamation of abandoned mines?
BOLLINGER: Yes--uh--. Okay.
MUMMERT: What is an abandoned mine?
BOLLINGER: Well, let me put it this way; there's coal mining that had certain
requirements and standards to it. And early on there were a lot of areas before
we got into trying to reclaim--require reclamation that were mined and son on.
And then there were a lot of other types of minerals that had been mined in
portions of the valley that didn't come under any state law at the time. They
just mined it and walked off and left it. And--um--.
MUMMERT: You mentioned Copper Hill. Would that an example?
BOLLINGER: Copper Hill was an example. Back in the eighteen--mid-eighteen
hundreds, I guess--um--they discovered copper down there. And it was
into--into--they would mine the copper ore. A lot of that was the deep mining,
but a lot of it was kind of on, towards the surface. So they would just open pit
mines, the stuff too. They would pull up the ore, they would cut down the trees,
and they'd build these long pits and they'd put in a layer of wood, trees,
tree-length wood, what have you, and then a layer of copper ore and a
01:19:00layer of wood, and a layer of copper ore. And they may have a pit 30-40' feet
deep. And they'd set that on fire and burn off all of the residue, which was
highly acidic. And this was all over that area around Copper Hill, Tennessee.
Um--which I had a so--I had a soils class in forestry school that I had to go
to, and the guy used Copper Hill as an example of what can happen in these kinds
of situations. Well, with all these pits they had going, burning, and creating
smoke, carrying it up and spewing it about the atmosphere, and it
01:20:00settling back to the earth. They had already cut the
trees out and that and lowered the PH of the soil down there. Some of the soil,
even thirty-forty even, let's see, in the mid--late--mid to late eighteen
hundreds, that would reduce the capability of the soils to grow anything after a
period of time. And when we--in--in the 30s, TVA and the--and the--uh--CCC guys
started some tree planting with the company around the outside perimeter of this
area. Because you couldn't--some PHs would be like 2.5, and you can't
01:21:00grow anything at 2.5 PH.
MUMMERT: And normal, or what you would want it would be what?
BOLLINGER: 6 to 7.5. If you get it up around 4, though we can begin to get some
vegetation on. And--uh--so you had the copper area down at Copper Hill, you
had--in Alabama there was brown iron ore--um--manganese mines in southwest
Virginia, mica, feldspar and clay mines in western North Carolina. And then
brown iron ore mines in Alabama. Alabama was also a coal--coal mine
01:22:00area that we bought coal from over the years. And--uh--so by that time though I
think we were well into having contract with standards that they had to meet and
so on. And that's the pushed Alabama towards getting their own laws, and so on.
Um--I think Tennessee, at one time, had a reasonable requirement, and Kentucky,
but they were not funded well and didn't have the capability to really enforce
their own law. And--uh--so all these things working--pulling together with a
little direction and then I think the support of TVA moved the coal
01:23:00mining function to be under a national standard. And--um--and so on.
But--once in a while in our program, we would get, when the national economy got
into dire straits or something, and Congress and the Federal Government provided
funds for--to create jobs, we would get a--some of that funding and be able to
go out and work non--on prelaw--uh--mining areas. And
we would try do this, again in cooperation with the states, at least the four
states. Alabama--um-- Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia. Um--in one of
01:24:00those programs, I think we were--we had gotten something like a commitment from
Congress for a proposal to go out and reclaim some of these non-coal--these coal
mine areas, prelaw areas, which were out there. And
nature was slowly beginning to recover some of them, but others where you had a
acid problem or what have you. And you had to go in and spread tons and tons of
lime down and so on to get vegetation started. Um--we got a project
that--uh-- I kind of inherited but all in a way but on in that
01:25:00was--uh--I was to shut it down at the end of four years or something. It was
going to be a five year program. And I think we had like $25 million of
congressional appropriations. And most of that money we fun--we funneled to the
states. They had to set up a program within their divisions of reclamation to go
back and reclaim those areas. And--uh--and talk about worrying about when
you--when you try to shut down a program like that, and you have to go to the
meetings-- meetings with the states, and so on and you wondered
01:26:00whether you were going to make it home at alive some times.
MUMMERT: Now, when was this?
BOLLINGER: This was in the--in the 1980s or early 1990s.
MUMMERT: But there were--uh--any big successes in those program--among those programs.
BOLLINGER: Yeah we--we had, they all did--they got in there and they did their
reclamation, and I think we had--we reclaimed over 17,000 acres of--of--uh--coal
mines under one of those, after that was that, four--five-state effort, a
four-state, five-year program and--uh--with an annual budget of about
01:27:00$5 million. And we funded the states to do the work, and so on. Some states did
a little better than others, but we--we got a lot of areas that are reclaimed
now. And if you're driving of I-75 out of Knoxville and you're looking up on the
mountains, you can't see them now. You used to be you could see this cliff of
dirt hanging up there. But and all of this, and then like even and we got some
funding from the Division of Water Quality for several years to go back and
reclaim--essentially reclaim the copper basin. And you drive through there
today, and you won't see much of anything.
MUMMERT: I've driven through there lately.
BOLLINGER: And what's it look like now?
MUMMERT: It's green, that was last--last summer--I was--.
BOLLINGER: Okay, I haven't been down there in several years now.
MUMMERT: I hadn't been there for a long time.
BOLLINGER: When I--the last time we were down there finishing up, it was still a
two-lane road down 411. And last year I think started cutting over off of
I-75--off of the raceway of 75 from Chattanooga to down to Atlanta. Anyway, I
cut over onto 411, and now that's a four-lane divided highway for the most part,
almost to the Georgia line.
MUMMERT: That's how I got there. My wife and I were coming up from Atlanta, and
we got to Copper Hill, and--and the--uh--what's the community in Georgia
across the--right next to it? But, there were tourists there and
01:29:00there were restaurants, and it was--they--that was quite different than--.
BOLLINGER: Did--did you go by the museum?
BOLLINGER: Okay, that's--we left a portion of that unreclaimed except for what
nature was doing.
MUMMERT: Is that in the--in Copper Hill town, the town?
BOLLINGER: Not in the town but it's up on the--up on the little mountain just
north of Copper Hill itself. But--um--they had--the company had done an open-pit
mine that was huge, huge open-pit mining. And it was 80 feet deep, and two
creeks ran into that. And we decided, and a lot of people didn't
01:30:00appreciate our coming down there, you know try to reclaim it because that was
their claim to fame. --Um--NASA even used it as a checkpoint from the space
stations up there because they could see right, and that was the only desert in
the eastern United States. And--uh--I think that, so, we decided with the
company that--uh--we would leave that area where that portion of the drainage
from the museum overlook down to wherever this--uh--big open pit was, just let
the--let it run off into that. Because it would take hundreds of years I guess
before that would s--fill up with sediment. But what it did do, and oh, I
forget--forget the name of the river that goes through there, that goes down to
the TVA dam, Ocoee--Ocoee River. Um--there's three dams on that river
01:31:00that TVA inherited I guess when they bought the old Chattanooga--um--power
plants from or whatever. Anyway--um--that--that--started clearing up the river,
significantly according to the water quality people and even the power people
were noticing that--um--the last reservoir just below the basin--um--was--is
pretty much filled with sediment. And--uh--but they--they even said
01:32:00yeah, that's--that's money well spent.
MUMMERT: Well--uh--we are coming close to the end of the interview I think.
The--uh--one question I wanted to ask you though and this may be--uh--uh--it's
not a difficult one but, are there any questions that you wished that I had
asked that I haven't?
BOLLINGER: Well, the only thing, I guess, in--th--kind of summing this up would
be, my career with TVA was really just what I was looking for as a
01:33:00youngster. And--and TVA's approach under the TVA Act I think was where we were a
conservation agency plus power production, and which now--now a days is just
power program. Um-- but I had--I had great people to work with, I had great
supervisors, and we--we did make this valley a little greener. And I think
ev--everybody over the years that worked whether under the, whether it was
congressional or power helped make this valley better and greener
01:34:00than we found it. I--just am thankful to TVA for hiring me.
MUMMERT: Well it sounds like a very--very interesting and productive career, and
I think from what I've--I've just heard that--uh--you've personally, as
long--along with the people that you work with, made it greener than you--you
may even imagine. Uh--in all the work for over a 30-year period doing in
forestry and reclamation has had, you not only a short-term impact but hopefully
a longer-term impact then we can imagine. I'd like to thank you for your time
and cooperation, and thank you again.
BOLLINGER: You're welcome.