Interview with Ben Jaco, October 31, 2017

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:01 - Being hired at TVA

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Partial Transcript: The following is an oral history interview conducted as part of the Tennessee Valley Authority Retirees Association Oral History Pilot Project.

Segment Synopsis: Jaco discusses how he came to be hired at TVA within the Game and Fish Division in the mid-1950s. Jaco's background in fisheries is discussed. The dynamics of the fishing industry during the 1950s in the U.S. are also mentioned.

Keywords: Bills; Boss; Communication; Engineer corps; Freshwater reservoirs; Game and Fish Division; Graduate work; Hiring; Impounded; Mississippi Gaming and Fishing Commission; New; State; TVA Expansion; Taxes; Tennessee Valley; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA)

Subjects: Aquatic ecology; Budget; Chattanooga (Tenn.); Decatur (Ala.); Engineers; Fisheries; Lakes; Mississippi; Money; Norris (Tenn.); Offices; People; Reservoirs; Responsibility; Tennessee; Tennessee Valley Authority; Work

00:04:15 - TVA and fisheries / TVA issues

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Partial Transcript: What, uh, was or is the responsibility of TVA, when it comes to fisheries?

Segment Synopsis: Jaco characterizes the relationship between TVA and state-level fisheries. Issues that the Game and Fish Division of the TVA faced are also discussed.

Keywords: Cold; Collections; Conditions; Dam construction; Dissolved oxygen; Federal government; Flow; Fluctuations; Game and Fish Division; Indifferent; Issues; Middle Tennessee River; New; Protected; Resources; State game and fish commissions; State government; Stratify; Stream flow; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA); Tributary stream; Unknown; Vegetation; Wildlife

Subjects: Change; Chattanooga (Tenn.); Fish populations; Fisheries; Fishes; Fontana Dam (N.C.); Great Smoky Mountains (N.C. and Tenn.); Reservoirs; Rivers; Specimens; Tennessee; Tennessee Valley Authority; University of Michigan

00:09:10 - Fishery technology in the 1950s / Land Wildlife

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Partial Transcript: What, uh, do people in the fisheries field do to--

Segment Synopsis: Jaco details what types of technology were available in the fishing industry during the beginning of his career in the mid-1950s. Jaco's work in the Land Wildlife section of the TVA is also discussed.

Keywords: Coordination; Derris plant; Distribution; Eradicated; Game and Fish Division; Land Wildlife; Measure; New; Personality conflicts; Plant roots; Preservation management; Reservoir management; Restoration; TVA lands; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA); United States Fish and Wildlife Service; Weigh

Subjects: Education; Employees; Fisheries; Fishes; Florida; Nets; Norris Lake (Tenn.); Phosphate; Research; Reservoirs; State governments; Tennessee; Tennessee Valley Authority

00:13:11 - Overview of his career at TVA / TVA expansion

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Partial Transcript: Could you give me a, uh--an--a--a thumbnail sketch of your whole TVA career?

Segment Synopsis: Jaco provides an overview of his career at TVA, and lists all the positions that he held. Jaco then examines TVA's expansion following the beginning of TVA's involvement in nuclear power in the 1980s.

Keywords: Aquatic ecologists; Assistant Branch Chief; Coal plants; Expansion; Heated water; Monitoring; Nuclear power; Senior biologists; Tennessee Valley; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA); United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); Water quality standards; Wildlife

Subjects: Aquatic ecology; Employees; Fisheries; Fishes; Insects; Land Between the Lakes (Ky. and Tenn.); Nuclear power plants; Planning; Protection; Tennessee; Tennessee Valley Authority; Water; Water quality

00:16:16 - TVA and coal plants

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Partial Transcript: Let's take, uh, the, uh, period when coal plants were first introduced.

Segment Synopsis: Jaco describes TVA's involvement as one of the forefront coal fired steam plant owners in the 1950s and 1960s. TVA's role in monitoring the environmental effects of the coal plants is detailed. The measures that the TVA took to reduce the harmful effects of the coal plants to local forests are explored.

Keywords: AJ Wagner; Coal fired steam plant; Coal plants; Construction; Dwight Eisenhower; Effluent stack; Electric companies; Forestry Division; Higher dispersion; Interested; New effects; Paradise Steam Plant; Stack gas; Steam plants; TVA Chairman; TVA Johnsonville Fossil Plant; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA); Unknown effects; Widow's Creek (Ala.)

Subjects: Alabama; Coal; Drakesboro (Ky.); Duke Power Company; Electricity; Forests; Fossil fuel power plants; Johnsonville (Tenn.); Pioneers; Technology; Tennessee; Tennessee Valley Authority

00:21:44 - Nuclear power and TVA / Environmental issues

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Partial Transcript: So, let's go to the nuclear generation, that's when you said your staff increased to how many?

Segment Synopsis: Jaco recalls when the TVA began to invest in nuclear power. The impact of this decision monetarily and from an environmental standpoint are discussed. Jaco highlights the logistical challenges of building nuclear power plants from a natural standpoint. For instance, having to reroute the stream flow of rivers for hundreds of miles to make the rivers habitable for fish due to changes in the water temperature caused by nuclear power plants.

Keywords: Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant (Alabama); Cold water; Construction; Controversial; Different; Dissolved gas changes; Distance; Engineering lab; Fish & Wildlife; Game and Fish Division; Heated water; Models; Move; Norris Reservoir (Tenn.); Reservoir conditions; River flow; Separate watersheds; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA); Unknown; Water quality branch; Wilson Dam (Shoals Area, Ala.)

Subjects: Alabama; Change; Computers; Dams; Fisheries; Fishes; Fontana Dam (N.C.); Heatwave; Nuclear power plants; Rivers; Staff; Tennessee; Tennessee River; Tennessee Valley Authority; Water quality; Water temperature

00:26:13 - Effects of Clean Water Act

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Partial Transcript: Now about the--the same time that the--if I'm correct, the same time that, uh, nuclear plants are being considered and, and built, the federal government passed the water quality amendments.

Segment Synopsis: Jaco briefly assesses the changes to TVA policy as a result of the Clean Water Act and its associated amendments in the 1970s.

Keywords: Amendments, Constitutional; Clean Water Act; Gaming and fish commissions; Protected industries; Safe limits; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA); Water Resources Division

Subjects: Conformity; Fisheries; Fishes; Standards; State governments; Tennessee; Tennessee Valley Authority; Water quality

00:27:54 - Technological changes throughout career

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Partial Transcript: I wonder if you could, uh, talk for a little bit about the changes in the technology and the methods that you had available to you from 1955 on through your career to 1980s.

Segment Synopsis: Jaco evaluates how technology progressed and evolved throughout his career at TVA.

Keywords: Cars; Computer modeling; Desktop; Divisions; Job; Mainframe; Models; Motor pool; Personal computers; Quick; Rainfall; Scientific language; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA); Water Resource Division; Water thermometer

Subjects: Boats; Change; Chattanooga (Tenn.); Computers; Cooperation; Data; Engineers; Fishes; Instruments; Numbers; Punched card systems; Technology; Tennessee; Tennessee Valley Authority; Trucks

00:34:15 - Changes to river system by TVA

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Partial Transcript: What were some of the changes or improvements to the fisheries in the river system that you've saw through your career?

Segment Synopsis: Jaco details some of the primary changes that occurred to the both the fishing industry and the river systems throughout the years prior to World War II up into the 1970s. The policies that the TVA undertook in regards to fisheries and river systems during this period of time are evaluated.

Keywords: Artificial lures; Biological Readjustment Division; Boat engines; Cherokee Reservoir (Tenn.); Concerns; Data collections; Dingell-Johnson Act (1950); Distance; Doctors; Fishing contests; Freshwater fish; Game and Fish Division; Game fish; Impounded; Liberalization; Population explosion; Predictions; Preservation; Remove limits; River systems; Saltwater Bass; Sharing; State regulations; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA); Trophy fish; Water densities; World War II

Subjects: Canada; Change; Deregulation; Education; Fisheries; Fishers; Fishes; Fishing--Equipment and supplies; Kentucky; Money; People; Reservoir; Rivers; South Carolina; State governments; Striped bass; Tennessee; Tennessee Valley Authority; United States. Army. Corps of Engineers; Water; World War, 1939-1945

00:40:20 - Snail darter controversy / Endangered Species Act

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Partial Transcript: And the, uh--one thing, uh, while you were talking that came to mind in the 1970s, I guess, there's one, uh, fish story that, uh, historians know a lot about I think if they read about the TVA and that is the snail darter.

Segment Synopsis: Jaco outlines the snail darter controversy, which involved his office of the TVA. The relationship between the snail darter controversy and the Endangered Species Act is detailed. The impacts of the Endangered Species Act are also explored.

Keywords: Citizen power; Cold water fishing; Confusion; Congress; Controversial; Dam management; Discovery; Endangered Species Act of 1973; Funds; Gaming and Fish Division; Middle Tennessee River; Predictions; Problems; Rare; Snail darters; Stopped; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA); Threatened; United States Fish and Wildlife Service; Unknown

Subjects: Courts; Fisheries; Fishers; Fishes; Fishing; Money; People; Professors; Projects; Reservoirs; Responsibility; Search; Tellico Dam (Tenn.); Tellico River (N.C. and Tenn.); Tennessee; Tennessee Valley Authority; Trout; University of Tennessee

00:45:17 - Land Wildlife issues

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Partial Transcript: I, uh, again steered away--or, uh, have been focusing on fisheries but, uh, any, uh, evolving issues with, uh, land, uh, wildlife?

Segment Synopsis: Jaco details some of the primary issues he faced while working for the Land Wildlife division of the TVA.

Keywords: Coordination; Cumberland Reservoir (Kentucky); De-watered areas; Land; Land Wildlife Division; Peninsula; Pump storage areas; Tellico Reservoir; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA); United States Fish and Wildlife Service; Water Fowl Refuge; Wildlife

Subjects: Decatur (Ala.); Fisheries; Fishes; Kentucky; Land Between the Lakes (Ky. and Tenn.); Recreation; Reservoirs; Tellico River (N.C. and Tenn.); Tennessee; Tennessee River; Tennessee Valley Authority; Water

00:47:46 - Impact of TVA / American Fisheries Society

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Partial Transcript: Were there, uh, were there things that TVA did in, uh, fisheries or wildlife that, uh, had an impact, uh, beyond the Tennessee Valley?

Segment Synopsis: Jaco briefly talks of the importance and influence of TVA outside of the U.S. Jaco then discusses the expansion of the American Fisheries Society to North America.

Keywords: Cold water fisheries; Different equipment; Dingell-Johnson Act (1950); Environmental concerns; Learn; Policy; Shared information; Stream committee; Tennessee Valley; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA); Visiting; Warm water fisheries

Subjects: American Fisheries Society; Canada; China; Committees; Fisheries; Fishers; Fishes; Mexico; Reservoirs; Rivers; Tennessee; Tennessee Valley Authority

00:50:43 - Inventions

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Partial Transcript: One of the--one of the things that--that I was most proud of when I was at TVA is, back in the thirties there was a group of people in Texas...

Segment Synopsis: Jaco details how he assisted in further developing an electric fishing ring from an idea conceived of by fishermen in Texas in the 1930s. Technological advances in the fishing industry that Jaco and the Game and Fish Division helped to develop are also mentioned.

Keywords: Boats; Colleagues; Construction; Distribution; Fishing rig; Game and Fish Division; Modified; Pump service; Scales; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA)

Subjects: Age; Bones; Electricity; Equipment; Fisheries; Fishers; Fishes; Inventions; Pole; Rings; Rivers; Technology; Tennessee; Tennessee Valley Authority; Texas

00:53:38 - Accomplishments at TVA

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Partial Transcript: What--looking back over your career, uh, what do you think was your most important accomplishment?

Segment Synopsis: Jaco considers what his greatest accomplishments were at TVA.

Keywords: Agencies; Communication; Federal government; Game and Fish Division; Land Branch; Layout; Negotiations; Paper Mill; Solutions; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA); Water rate; Water releases

Subjects: Bass; Chance; Charleston (S.C.); Clinton (Tenn.); Cooperation; Dams; Engineering; Engineers; Fishes; Hatchery fishes; Learning; Meeting; Money; Nature; Planning; Pond; Problem solving; Property; State governments; Striped bass; Tennessee; Tennessee Valley Authority; Water

00:59:14 - Freshwater mussels

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Partial Transcript: In the Tennessee River, were freshwater clams called mussels.

Segment Synopsis: Jaco describes TVA's involvement with the monitoring of the harvesting of freshwater muscles from the Tennessee River for use in making pearls (out of the muscle's shells).

Keywords: Conservation; Controversial; Cultured pearls; Endangered; Exciting; Fish gills; Flowing stream; Freshwater; Gaming and Fishing Division; Interesting; Muscle diggers; Mussels; Regeneration; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA); Threatened; Valuable

Subjects: Crustaceans; Eggs; Fishes; Harvest; Japan; Pearls; Powell River (Va. and Tenn.); Shells; Tennessee; Tennessee River; Tennessee Valley Authority; Virginia Tech University; Water

01:02:58 - Aquatic vegetation control / Tilapia

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Partial Transcript: Uh, are there any questions that I have not asked that you wish I had?

Segment Synopsis: Jaco examines TVA's efforts at controlling the growth of aquatic vegetation and the effects of an invasive, non-native species of fish upon the waters under TVA's purview. Additionally, Jaco talks of TVA's attempts at raising tilapia in cold water.

Keywords: Aquatic vegetation; Cold water; Commercially-raised fish; Control; Fast; Female fish; Fish; Gaming and Fish Division; Heated buildings; Heated water; Research station; Shallow end; Steam plant; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA); Vegetation; Weed control; White Umir Fish

Subjects: Change; Fishes; Gallatin (Tenn.); Money; Reservoirs; Rivers; Russia; Scientists; Tennessee; Tennessee Valley Authority; Tilapia; Water; Water temperature

01:06:48 - Problems with water

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Partial Transcript: Is there anything else that you would like to--

Segment Synopsis: Jaco articulates some of the primary problems facing TVA during the 1950s, including contamination of tributary streams and rivers from DDT in Alabama and debris from cotton farming in Tennessee. Jaco also praises the work of TVA employees Tom Hunter and former TVA Chairman S. David Freeman.

Keywords: Community Economic Development; Contribution; Cotton farming; Creek; Factory; Fishes; S. David Freeman; Skilled; TVA Chairman; Tennessee Valley; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA); Tom Hunter; Tributary streams; Weevils; World War II

Subjects: Blood; DDT (Insecticide); Fisheries; Health; Minorities; People; Problem solving; Redstone Arsenal (Ala.); Rivers; Tennessee; Tennessee Valley Authority; Triana (Ala. : Town); World War, 1939-1945; Worms