WaterFire. Image from flickr.com
By Kim Kalunian, WPRO News
First the Sequester grounded the air show, and now the broad-based federal spending cuts could extinguish WaterFire.
WaterFire’s creative artistic director, Barnaby Evans, told WPRO that he learned about the potential impacts just about a week ago, and has been trying to come up with a solution since.
Although the Sequester wouldn’t directly impact the WaterFire organization, it would severely limit the use of the Fox Point Hurricane Barrier, which plays a crucial role in the summertime attraction.
Evans said that they’ve never been able to raise the funds to dredge the Providence rivers, which have gotten increasingly shallow. The short-term solution has been to use the barrier as a way to control the water levels and allow boats to navigate the waterways, which is imperative for WaterFire’s lightings.
Evans said the closure of the barrier “doesn’t cost much,” and is done quarterly to ensure everything is working properly.
Still, the barrier was set to play a key role in 11 of the 14 scheduled lightings; something Evans said is still up in the air.
“We’ve been working with the Army Corps of Engineers and the federal delegation to try to work out the details, and I’m fairly confident we’re going to come up with a solution,” he said.
Evans said he has a half dozen ideas, including using local city engineers to operate the barrier (versus those from the Cape Cod Canal Army Corps of Engineers location) or moving routine closures from Wednesdays to Saturdays, the night of the lightings. He also has a last resort plan: raise the money to pay back the federal government, to the tune of $2,500 per lighting. With 11 lightings planned on nights where the barrier would be used, that’s $27,500 they’d need to raise.
“We’ll endeavor to do that,” he said. “We think it’s important that the season go on.”
Tim Dugan, a spokesman for the Army Corps of Engineers, which operates the barrier, said he has not received confirmation from the government on how sequester cuts will impact the hurricane barrier’s use. He said the cuts would impact operations, and might limit the Army Corps’ ability to send staff down to operate the barrier. Still he said, commenting on the impacts would be “speculation” and “premature.”
“We don’t have any guidance,” he said.