When it comes to Lake Erie ferries, Port Stanley's loss may be Port Burwell's gain.
The federal government today will announce a grant of $92,000 to the municipality of Bayham to help finance a feasibility study into ferry service to Ohio.
MP Joe Preston, the Conservative for Elgin-Middlesex-London, will deliver the funds pier-side at Port Burwell harbour.
Last week, the Ontario government came up with $115,000 toward the $230,000 look at how a ferry service could work and its economic impact on the region.
The money for the year-long study was hailed by Bayham Mayor Lynn Acre as a "move forward to help us unlock the economic potential of a proposed cross-border ferry."
Two proponents have been wooing Bayham with their plans. Seaport Management Corp. is promoting a crossing to the Mentor area east of Cleveland and Quebecer Russell Blais is pushing a connection to Ashtabula, farther to the east.
Both have taken a pass on Port Stanley, which is locked in lengthy divestiture talks with Transport Canada and which has demonstrated little appetite for big boats in its harbour.
The two proposals would see a reliance on commercial truck traffic, tapping into the $88 million in daily trade between Ontario and Ohio.
Kyle Kruger, municipal clerk for Bayham, said the study is not focused on either proposal, but will consider an "intensive use" scenario.
Concern about truck traffic and congestion has prompted Port Stanley residents to opt against reviving their once thriving commercial harbour, the only deepwater port on the north shore of Lake Erie.
A recent $100,000 federal grant to look at the future of Port Stanley harbour has found local residents prefer a recreation and commercial fishing operation. A consultant compiling resident views is recommending the port be dredged to 2.4 metres, a move that would preclude commercial shipping and ferries.
But Port Burwell is a willing host, unlike its sister port 35 kilometres to the west. And the absence of a high bluff is considered a benefit for trucks disembarking for destinations in Ontario.
On the American side of the lake, Chris Conley, mayor of Grand River, which along with Fairport Harbor is partnered with Mentor, said he was heartened the ferry study will soon be underway.
"I am delighted," he said. "I am very excited about it. We are hoping the ferry study will show our assessment is correct."
Blais, backing the Ashtabula link, said "everything seems to be moving in the right direction." Kent Kristensen, chairperson of Seaport Management and a promoter of the Mentor link, said he, too, was pleased.
"We are delighted to see they are about to move forward," Kristensen said.
In announcing the provincial contribution last week, MPP Steve Peters, Liberal for Elgin-Middlesex-London, said the study is an important step in examining a potential new border crossing, which may boost the economy of the region.