TURBULENT WATERS: A 2007 photo showing the buildup of material and low water level in a downtown waterway that can make navigation by WaterFire boats impossible.
By Rhonda Miller PBN Staff Writer
WaterFire plans to send its enchanting flames over the waterways of downtown Providence with 11 full lightings in 2013. At least that’s the schedule, the buildup to which was anything but typical this year due to added complexities of sequestration and public concern about security since the Boston Marathon bombing in April.
The trickle-down of sequestration’s mandated budget cuts has hit the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and that could directly impact WaterFire.
And as it has for nearly all local public events, the deadly April 15 Boston Marathon bombing is forcing a review of security for WaterFire 2013.
WaterFire’s scrupulous attention to safety is in place every season, said WaterFire Managing Director Peter Mello.
“In light of what happened in Boston, it’s obvious that all events are reviewing their practices and making adjustments,” he said. “Security is always our highest priority. We work extremely closely with Providence police and fire and will continue to do so. We take our direction from them because it’s a public space.”
While security changes may be made going forward, they aren’t expected to impact the scheduling of events. Sequestration’s indirect effects on this year’s WaterFire are less certain.
The Army Corps provides the critical assistance of opening or closing the Fox Point Hurricane Protection Barrier in Providence. The barrier is used to manage water levels in the downtown waterways.
“This is a relatively new issue for us [assisting WaterFire]. These structures are made for flood control. They’re not made to support community events,” said Tim Dugan, spokesman for the New England district of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Sometimes water levels are too low to allow the WaterFire boats to navigate.
Operation of the Providence hurricane barrier was transferred from the city to the Army Corps in 2010.