Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Richard Toennisson, June 10, 2020

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:00 - Forest technician work / History of forestry at TVA

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Partial Transcript: And here we go.

Segment Synopsis: Toennisson discusses how he was hired at TVA. Toennisson also provides an overview of the history of TVA's involvement in forestry.

Keywords: Associate's degrees; Basic; Biomass projects; Boarding houses; Crews; Cut; Driving; Emphasis; Environment; Fertilizer; Forest cover; Forest plots; Forestry; Forestry technicians; Forests; Hotels; I-75 (Interstate); Important; Improve; Improvements; Inhabitants; Inventory; Material; Measure; Moving; New lakes; Nursery; Pine trees; Planting trees; Plots; Practices; Predictions; Preserve; Problems; Productive; Projects; Resources; Rest areas; Running farms; Sizes; Social standing; Soil; Sophisticated; Substances; Supplement; TVA Act; Technical; Tennessee Valley; Weigh; Wife; Wood fiber

Subjects: Clinton (Tenn.); Counties; Erosion; Experiments; Farms; Forest products; Growth; Health; History; Interviews; Leaves; Lives; Nomads; Norris (Tenn.); People; Protection; Research; Species; Tennessee; Tennessee Valley Authority; Timber; Travel; Trees; University of Kentucky

GPS: Clinton (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 36.104772, -84.128487
GPS: Norris (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 36.199444, -84.069167
00:07:21 - First position at TVA / Forest inventory work

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Partial Transcript: Did, uh, the work that you did when you part of your team and traveling around...

Segment Synopsis: Toennisson discusses his first position at TVA as a Forestry Technician.

Keywords: Assemblies; Available; Canvas; Cars; Center point; Completed; Complicated; Conferences; Databases; Development; Difficult; Distribution; Films; Forest cover; Forest technicians; Forests; Front; Ground; Information; Instruction; Inventory; Lands; Locations; Lumber companies; Media; News releases; Office of Power; Paper companies; Permission; Plots; Private land; Projects; Public nature; Schedules; Sections; Spike; Stakes; TVA lands; Tagging; Tennessee River watershed; Timelines; Tributary Area Development; U.S. Forest Service; Units

Subjects: Alabama; Explanation; Farmers; Kentucky; Lakes; Landowners; Meetings; Mississippi; Monitoring; People; Publications; Rivers; Sawmills; Television; Tennessee; Tennessee River; Tennessee Valley Authority; Time; Travel; Trees; Wives; Young

GPS: Tennessee
Map Coordinates: 36, -86
GPS: Tennessee River
Map Coordinates: 37.067222, -88.564722
GPS: Mississippi
Map Coordinates: 33, -90
GPS: Alabama
Map Coordinates: 32.7, -86.7
GPS: Kentucky
Map Coordinates: 37.5, -85
00:15:07 - Biomass research project

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Partial Transcript: Now when you were doing work say on the, uh, Biomass research project...

Segment Synopsis: Toennisson discusses his role in a biomass research project on Tennessee Valley trees.

Keywords: Branches; Concentration; Cutting; Effort; Fiber production; Funds; Graphs; Hardwoods; Hickory; Information; Measurements; National; Offices; Predictions; Preservation; Projects; Quantity; Rare; Replaceable materials; Size; Softwood; Statisticians; U.S. Forest Service; Universities; Unknown; Weighing; Wood fiber

Subjects: Appalachian Mountains; Appalachian Regional Commission; Biomass; Fibers; Forest products; Forest products industry; Fossil fuels; Grass; Leaves; Lumber; Material; Oak; Paper; People; Research; Responsibility; Species; Statistics; Tennessee; Tennessee Valley Authority; Trees; University of Mississippi; Wood; Work

GPS: Tennessee
Map Coordinates: 36, -86
GPS: Appalachian Mountains
Map Coordinates: 40, -78
GPS: University of Mississippi
Map Coordinates: 34.365, -89.538
00:20:26 - New duties as a staff forester

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Partial Transcript: And, uh, at the, uh--what I decided to do in the, in the late seventies was go back to school to get a master's degree.

Segment Synopsis: Toennisson explains why he decided to continue his education, and how this experience led to a new position within TVA.

Keywords: Assisting; Bachelor's degrees; Calculations; Continued; Coursework; Employed; Encouraging; Equipment; Forest product firms; Foresters; Forestry; Full-time; Help; Increased; Industry; Information; Inventory; Locating; Master's degrees; Paper plants; Part-time; Pay; Project work; Pulp wood; Resources; Responsibilities; Returned; Schedules

Subjects: Career; Change; Economic development; Education; Forest products; Forest products industry; Health; Job creation; Lumber; Material; People; Planning; Sawmills; Staff; Surveys; Tennessee; Tennessee Valley Authority; Travel; Understanding; University of Tennessee

GPS: Tennessee
Map Coordinates: 36, -86
GPS: University of Tennessee
Map Coordinates: 35.951667, -83.93
00:24:01 - Forestry products industries in the Tennessee Valley

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Partial Transcript: The forest products industries in the, in the Tennessee Valley...

Segment Synopsis: Toennisson lists some of the major forest products produced in the Tennessee Valley.

Keywords: Common; Employment; Important; Major; Places; Tennessee Valley; Towns; Use; Workforce

Subjects: Counties; Employees; Forest products; Forest products industry; Furniture; Morristown (Tenn.); People; Sawmills; Tennessee; Tennessee Valley Authority; Time

GPS: Tennessee
Map Coordinates: 36, -86
GPS: Morristown (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 36.210556, -83.296111
00:26:22 - Focus on lumber drying technology

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Partial Transcript: And when you said you, you know, became a staff forester and started to work more like on projects...

Segment Synopsis: Toennisson describes some of the projects that he completed as a staff forester in the 1980s.

Keywords: Aspect; Capsules; Careful; Computerized dry kilns; Country; Cracks; Different; Effort; First; Garages; Hard; Important; Independent; Industry; Interested; Lose; Lumber drying; Master's degrees; Models; New; Practical; Private industry; Problems; Process; Processed; Provided; Public information; Sap; Schedules; Similar; Split; Thesis; Unconcerned; Unique; Use; Welcome; Wet; Years

Subjects: Ability; Catalyst; Computers; Economic development; Education; Foresters; Interest; Lumber; Material; Patents; People; Reality; Research; Sawmills; Table; Tennessee; Tennessee Valley Authority; Trees; United States; Wood; Work

GPS: Tennessee
Map Coordinates: 36, -86
00:32:18 - Work as a wood products engineer

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Partial Transcript: The, uh, work we were talking about, uh, was being done when you were staff forester?

Segment Synopsis: Toennisson characterizes his work as a Wood Products Engineer throughout the 1980s.

Keywords: Bed; Benefits; Big; Boards; Boiled water; Boilers; Business practices; Church convention; Conservation; Control; Cuttings; Daughter; Difference; Dinner; Distance; Dry kilns; East Tennessee; Fell; Floor; Forest Products Improvement Unit; Forest utilization; Forgiven; Formalized; Funny; Gas bill; Grating; Heat exchange; Heat exchanges; Heated; Height; Hiring; House; Humiliated; Improvement studies; Improvements; Install; Labs; Large; Less; Living room; Lumber utilization study; More; New dry kilns; Nice; Overnight; Phone call; Plant; Profitable; Promoted; Roof; Sold out; Stacks; Standard; Start; Staying; Steam; Sweetwater (Tenn.); Talking; Technician; U.S. Forest Service; Vented; Vented air; Vice president; Waiting; Wasted; Weight; Wood products engineers; Wood utilization

Subjects: Air; Beds; Buildings; Children; Comprehension; Energy; Environmental protection; Experiments; Factories; Forest products; Forest products industry; Friend; Furniture; Gas; Good; Heat; Hotels; Humidity; Johnson City (Tenn.); Lumber; Madison (Wisc.); Organization; People; Rooms; Sawmills; Staff; Stairs; Successful; Tennessee; Tennessee Valley Authority; Time; Trees; Wood; Work

GPS: Tennessee
Map Coordinates: 36, -86
GPS: Madison (Wisc.)
Map Coordinates: 43.074722, -89.384167
GPS: Johnson City (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 36.333333, -82.366667
GPS: Sweetwater (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 35.6025, -84.466944
00:41:12 - Change in career to environmental work

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Partial Transcript: And, uh, then you had a change in your career.

Segment Synopsis: Toennisson discusses his move to environmental work from his position associated with the forest products industry.

Keywords: Allowed; Approvals; Big; Boat docks; Cleanups; Congressional appropriations; Conservation; Curtailed; Endangered Species Act; Environment; Environmental compliance; Environmental scientists; Environmental work; Fontana Dam (Tenn.); Forest inventory; Forestry; Funding; Future use; Gone; Help; Houses; Ideas; Impacted; Industrial assistance; Interdisciplinary; Interested; Land projects; Land use plans; Less; Marvin Runyon; Narrow; North; Preventative; Projects; Reduced; Removal; Residential development; Retained; Roads; Sediments; Shoreline; Sold; Spectrum; Steam plants; Survey; TVA Act; TVA Act, Section 26a; TVA land; Tagged; Tellico Dam (Tenn.); Tennessee Valley; Trails; Underground gas tanks; Use; Watershed teams; Watts Bar Dam (Tenn.)

Subjects: Business; Camping; Change; Directors; Economic development; Endangered species; Environmental protection; Lenoir City (Tenn.); Libraries; Melton Hill Lake (Tenn.); Money; Nature; Norris (Tenn.); Nuclear power plants; Opportunity; People; Programs; Reservoirs; Runoff; Social; Species; Staff; Surveys; Tennessee; Tennessee Valley Authority; Time; Watersheds; Work

GPS: Watts Bar Dam (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 35.621303, -84.781597
GPS: Leonir City (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 35.7975, -84.271111
GPS: Tellico Dam (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 35.777778, -84.259722
GPS: Fontana Dam (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 35.452222, -83.804722
GPS: Melton Hill Lake (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 35.885278, -84.3
GPS: Norris (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 36.199444, -84.069167
00:48:47 - Public meetings and reservoir land plans

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Partial Transcript: And there'd also be a, a, a--NEPA was involved and so there'd also be public meetings.

Segment Synopsis: Toennisson recalls how public meetings played a role in his environmental work.

Keywords: Approval; Comments; Completed; Derivative; Different; Exciting; Gathering information; Hours; Input; Interesting; Less; Modifications; National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA); Official; Opinions; Plans; Policy; Public meetings; Reservoirs; TVA Board; Techniques; Today

Subjects: Analysis; Change; Land use; Learning; Meetings; People; Planning; Property; Reservoirs; Tennessee; Tennessee Valley Authority; Travel; Work

GPS: Tennessee
Map Coordinates: 36, -86
00:51:03 - National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) work

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Partial Transcript: Was that, uh, was that the end of your, uh, TVA employment then?

Segment Synopsis: Toennisson talks of his NEPA work within TVA.

Keywords: Abandon; Bridges; Central office; Contractors; Downstream; Downtown; Enriching; Environmental assessments; Environmental impact statements; Environmental reviews; Environmental work; Failed; Fisheries biologists; Fort Loudon Dam (Tenn.); Government agencies; Grounds; Highways; Individual; Industrial; Interesting; Land; Land plans; Moving; NEPA Specialist; National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA); Projects; Proposals; Proposed; Public meetings; Redesign; Related; Reorganization; Reservation land; Residential development; Specialists; State agency; Tennessee Department of Transportation; Tennessee Valley; Unique; Watts Bar Dam (Tenn.); Watts Bar Steam Plant (Tenn.); West tower; Wildlife biologists; Years

Subjects: Biologists; Change; Cooperation; Design; Knoxville (Tenn.); Management; People; Retirement; Staff; State governments; Tennessee; Tennessee Valley Authority; Time; United States; Watts Bar Nuclear Plant (Spring City, Tenn.); Work

GPS: Fort Loudon Dam (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 35.790908, -84.24265
GPS: Knoxville (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 35.9617, -83.9232
GPS: Tennessee
Map Coordinates: 36, -86
GPS: Watts Bar Dam (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 35.621303, -84.781597
GPS: Watts Bar Steam Plant (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 35.610556, -84.781389
GPS: Watts Bar Nuclear Plant (Spring City, Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 35.602778, -84.789444
00:58:19 - Final thoughts

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Partial Transcript: Um, I'm gonna be ge--I'm getting close to the end of, uh, asking questions but I have one that I'd like to ask you and, uh, that is, uh: are there any questions I have not asked that you wish I had asked?

Segment Synopsis: Toennisson shares his final thoughts on working at TVA.

Keywords: Agency; Agree; Concentrate; Different; Difficult; Fantastic; Firms; Happy; Stayed; Staying; Thorough

Subjects: Diversity; Material; Opportunity; Tennessee; Tennessee Valley Authority; Work

GPS: Tennessee
Map Coordinates: 36, -86