PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Providence’s public art display WaterFire is dealing with a wrinkle due to automatic federal budget cuts.
The event is one of the city’s most important tourist attractions, drawing up to 1 million visitors annually over a dozen or more nights a year. Downtown rivers are lined with fires, and music and performers entertain people on the shores. Boaters keep the flames lit for several hours after sundown, gliding from brazier to brazier to add cedar logs to the flames.
But in recent years, silt has caused the water level to drop and navigation to be difficult or impossible on many WaterFire dates. As a temporary fix until the river is dredged, the city’s hurricane barrier, which is owned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, has been closed to help maintain the water level on WaterFire nights when the tide is too low or too high.
WaterFire creator Barnaby Evans on Monday said the Army Corps told organizers about a week ago that it may no longer have the budget to close the barrier because of the government’s automatic budget cuts. Evans said WaterFire had asked the Army Corps to close the hurricane barrier for 11 of the planned 14 dates in 2013, nine of which are expected to have tides that are too low and two have tides that are too high.