Tuesday September 18, 2012 | 12:06 PM

WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-District 1, says she is on board with Canadian officials’ proposal to bring back ferry service between Portland and Nova Scotia.

In a letter sent Monday to Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter, Pingree said Portland has felt the loss ever since ferry service between Portland and Yarmouth, N.S., ceased in late 2009. A Canadian panel recently recommended restoring the service with a cruise-style ferry, rather than the high-speed catamaran known as The Cat that formerly carried passengers to and fro across the Gulf of Maine.

“As the panel reported, Portland would make a strong port for the ferry line,” Pingree wrote. “Ocean Gateway’s new berth and docking facility stand ready to accommodate a new international cruise ferry service. Recent investments in Portland’s International Marine Terminal have increased its capacity to handle freight traffic once passengers have disembarked. And while Portland itself is growing as a cultural destination, it has also become a transportation hub able to serve the needs of both embarking and disembarking passengers.”

Dexter announced last week that his government would be willing to spend as much as $21 million over seven years subsidizing the ferry service because the study panel demonstrated that the province has taken a financial hit since ferry service between Yarmouth, Portland and Bar Harbor was halted.

Whether any government – state, local or federal – on this side of the border would be willing to chip in remains unclear. And given the financial realities at the state and federal levels – as well as discomfort in some segments over government subsidies – that would likely be a challenging fight, to say the least.

Pingree makes no pledge to pursue funding but said she and other stakeholders and are eager to work to restore ferry service to Portland.

Disclosure: Pingree is married to S. Donald Sussman, majority share owner of MaineToday Media and the Portland Press Herald.

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Kevin Miller is Washington bureau chief for the Portland Press Herald and MaineToday Media. He has worked as a journalist in Maine for 6 ½ years, covering the environment, politics and the State House. Before arriving in Maine, he wrote about politics, government and education for newspapers in Virginia and Maryland.
Kevin can be reached at 317-6256 or kmiller@mainetoday.com

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