Stephen Turner

Stephen Turner is the new TVA aquatic plant manager. He's shown in an airboat in a patch of white water lily on Browns Creek. 

Stephen Turner is the new head of TVA's aquatic control program and he's practically a local. 

  • He grew up at Plainview, where he played football for Dale Pruitt, who just left as coach at Albertville High School to coach in Georgia. 
  • His in-laws, Bob and Susan Anderson, live in Guntersville's Riverpointe subdivision.
  • He's worked in aquatic vegetation on Guntersville Lake with Aqua Services and other companies and did some work on the lake as a grad student at Auburn 20 years ago.
  • He lives at Section in Jackson County, a community on the mountain just above the lake.

Growth of the plants in the lake is running just a little behind schedule this year, but the aquatic plant management team has been busy the last couple weeks. 

"Obviously, we're getting ready for HydroFest and the 4th of July," Turner said. "We make a big push to make sure everything is in good shape for the 4th."

Turner earned his bachelor's degree in environmental biology from Jacksonville State University. He completed graduate coursework in fisheries biology at Auburn University.

"I met Dr. David Webb of TVA back in 1998 when I was a graduate assistant at Auburn," Turner said. Webb was over the aquatic vegetation program for years and still works as a seasonal contract employee with the program.

Turner is not just over the aquatic vegetation program on Guntersville Lake. The scope of his work is the entire Tennessee Valley footprint.

"Guntersville is the hotbed," he said. "But we also do work on Nickajack, Chickamauga, Pickwick and Watts Bar."

Most of his work in the past has been in the application arena. Past managers of the program have come from the research side. 

"It's a little different perspective," Turner said. 

The makeup of the plant community in the lake has changed dramatically since Turner first started looking at the plants 25 years ago. Eel grass is in the mix now. It seems to be increasing every year. 

"It spreads more easily than some of the other plants," Turner said. 

When ducks dive down to feed on milfoil or hydrilla in the winter, he said, they just break off pieces of the plant stem. When they peck at eel grass, they often pull up the root. It then floats somewhere else, settles down and starts growing again. 

The materials used to treat eel grass are a little different from hydrilla too, Turner said. 

Turner and his crews go out in survey boats to scout out locations of aquatic plants. They use a Lowrance mapping system to chart what they find. The charts are then downloaded at the office and the locations are assigned values of 1, 2, 3 or 4.

"A 1 means we need to treat that area next week," he said. "A 2 means 2 weeks. Obviously, you don't know what is going to happen a month out. A 4 just means we need to look at it again in a few weeks."

The Guntersville Lake management program runs from June 1 until Sept. 30 every year. It slows way down after Labor Day. Getting the lake ready for the recreation associated with summer holidays is a big emphasis.

The weed treatments take place along public and commercial recreational developments as well as along privately developed residential shorelines. 

"We just emphasize access to deeper water," Turner said. "It's not about completely cleaning up an area."

While hydrilla, milfoil and eel grass are the dominant species in the lake, white water lily is also a biggie. There's a lot of it on Browns Creek. Turner showed reporters an area of white water lily this week that had socked in a dock. It was treated the previous week and the area that had been treated was already turning brown. 

"It takes about 2 weeks to really see the effects of the control measures," Turner said. 

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