A Documentary by Barbara Bernstein

For thousands of years the north reach of the Willamette River, near its confluence with the Columbia, was a braided river of shallow channels and islands rich in biodiversity. That was until European settlers came to the Pacific Northwest and displaced the Indigenous people who had made this place their home since time immemorial. With industrial development, channels were filled, or dredged to create shipping lanes. Banks were hardened. Industries contaminated the water and land along the river, destroying salmon runs and reducing wildlife populations that had thrived alongside indigenous communities.

Today the area is designated an industrial sanctuary, but the communities that were displaced or damaged by this so-called sanctuary see it as an industrial sacrifice zone. Once a Braided River tells the story of the river before it was transformed into a Superfund Site and features community groups and activists working to replace the current Industrial Sanctuary with a green working waterfront defined by good jobs, clean energy, and healthy ecosystems. The documentary explores their vision to reclaim this stretch of river as a place where people and wildlife who depend upon the river for their homes, jobs and migration routes can thrive.

Listen to/download the audio of ONCE A BRAIDED RIVER

Once A Braided River premiered on Locus Focus on KBOO-FM 90.7 on October 24, 2022. It was rebroadcast on April 22 (Earth Day) 2023 on KBOO-FM 90.7 https://kboo.fm/media/113483-once-braided-river

Read the Transcript

Upcoming Screenings:

Once a Braided River is showing again, this time at the University of Portland on March 9 at 1:00 pm.

This screening will take place at Brian Doyle Auditorium on the University of Portland’s campus in Dundon-Berchtold Hall. You can reserve tickets here: https://up.campuslabs.com/engage/event/9968005  Admission is free, but space is limited: RSVP to ensure we have room for your party.

The screening will be followed by a panel discussion with Bob Sallinger, Sarah Taylor, John Wasiutynski and Jay Wilson, who are featured in the film, and moderated by Barbara Bernstein.

ONCE A BRAIDED RIVER screened again on December 5 to another sold out crowd at the St. Johns Twin Cinemas.

Like the September 12 at the St. Johns Twin Cinemas, this second screening was a rousing success with a very engaged audience on the edge of their seats wanting to make social change.

We are hoping to do more screenings in SE Portland later this winter. Watch this space for more details.

ONCE A BRAIDED RIVER (the video) premiered in Portland at Cinema 21, 616 NW 21st Avenue, Tuesday, May 16 at 7 pm to a packed house and enthusiastic audience.

The event was co-sponsored by the Braided River Campaign, Columbia Riverkeeper, Willamette Riverkeeper, KBOO Community Radio, 350PDX and Oregon PSR

The documentary then screened on June 21 at the Kenton Firehouse, 8105 N. Brandon, and at the Wy’east Unitarian Universalist Congregation at The Center for Positive Aging, 1820 NE 40th Avenue in the Hollywood Neighborhood. It will be showing again at St. Luke Church on November 1 and the Eastside Democratic Club on November 14. On September 12 and again on December 5 it played to a sold out house at the St. Johns Twin Cinema.

Rumble On The River Community Forum #14: “Renewable Diesel: Boon Or Boondoggle?”

Sunday, March 3rd, 10:45 AM – 12:25 PM
Public Interest Environmental Law Conference
University of Oregon, Eugene Campus, Law School, Room 175  

The predicted event of a Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake has the potential for a Deepwater Horizon level spill on Portland’s riverfront. Zenith Energy sits within the CEI Hub transporting and storing Bakken oil. There has been extensive outcry from the community and elected officials about the health, safety and climate justice impacts associated with the Hub. Zenith Energy has promised to swap out their oil-based operations for renewable diesel. The Rumble #14 panel will expose the alleged benefits of renewable diesel and question if this trade-off will actually help community members and the river ecosystem.

Panelists include:
Nick Caleb. Climate & Energy Attorney for Breach Collective 
Gary Hughes. Americas Program Director for Biofuel Watch
Barbara Bernstein. Media Project; KBOO Radio-Locus Focus
Michael Pouncil. Planning Commissioner, City of Portland’s Bureau of Planning & Sustainability; Portland Harbor Community Advisory Group

Moderator: Dineen O’Rourke. Campaign Manager for 350PDX. 

ONCE A BRAIDED RIVER was funded by the Regional Arts and Culture Council and Stand up to Oil

Banner art by Kandace Manning

Producer Barbara Bernstein is a musician, composer, performance artist and radio producer. Besides her recent documentary Once a Braided River, her award-winning radio documentaries, internationally broadcast on public radio stations, include two pieces about the struggle to stop the Pacific Northwest from becoming a fossil fuel export hub: Holding the Thin Green Line and Sacrifice ZonesFighting Goliath (the turbulent growth of tar sands development); Sculpted By Fire (the role of fire in shaping western forests and sustaining healthy forest ecosystems); Salmonlands (the cultural significance of diminishing salmon runs in the Northwest) and Rivers That Were (the industrialization of the Colorado and Columbia Rivers). You can hear more of her work here.