“River of Power” completes nearly 50 years of BPA documentary filmmaking. This film, made in 1987, is a grand sweep of BPA’s history, using BPA’s own vintage footage as well as period newsreels and new footage. The filmmakers use Woody Guthrie’s songs from “The Columbia River Songbook” and give an encompassing view of the geologic history of the Columbia River Basin, the building of the dams and transmission system, rural electrification, the aluminum industry and new uses for power during World War II, such as the “mystery load” (plutonium production) at the Hanford nuclear site. It brings the viewer up to the 50th anniversary of BPA, covering the 1948 Vanport Flood, enactment of the Columbia River Treaty, construction of the Pacific Northwest-Pacific Southwest Intertie and the addition of the third powerhouse at Grand Coulee Dam.
BPA contracted the filmmaking to Hillmann & Carr, a production firm in Washington, D.C., and for the first time, no BPA consultants or producers are listed in the credits. “River of Power” brings to an end the golden age of BPA film. As “Intertie” did, “River of Power” won the Golden Eagle award at the Council on International Non-Theatrical Events. The digital transfer was made from an original 16 mm color film print.