Fernie: Frequently asked questions

Project overview

We'll be upgrading our aging substation – located in the city of Fernie next to the skateboard park on Ridgemont Drive – to meet current needs for electricity and future growth in Fernie and the surrounding area.

Upgrading the Fernie Substation, which was built in the early 1970s and is reaching its capacity (the amount of electricity that the substation can transfer at any given time), allows us to continue providing clean reliable power to about 5,000 homes and businesses in Fernie and the surrounding area. The demand for electricity in the Fernie area is forecasted to increase by approximately 11% in the next 10 years.

The upgraded substation is expected to serve the electricity requirements of Fernie and the surrounding area for approximately 30 years, based on the current load forecast.

Site preparation and construction will take place at the substation from Fall 2016 to Spring 2018 with landscaping being completed by Summer 2018.

The estimated planning cost for the project is approximately $24 million. It will be funded by BC Hydro ratepayers throughout the Province.

Project alternatives

We completed a cost assessment of different options to upgrade the substation, on its existing site as well as possibly building a new substation in a less urban area. The assessment indicated upgrading the existing substation using a standard low profile substation design was the most cost and time-effective, and the preferred option to continue to provide clean reliable power to Fernie.

Project description

Various activities will be taking place at and adjacent to the substation, including:

  • Setting up a construction laydown/staging area
  • Expanding the substation onto 0.75 acres of land we own on the north-west side of the site
  • Removing the existing control building and putting up a new one
  • Removing an existing transformer and replacing it with a new larger one
  • Adding new equipment
  • Installing a new security fence
  • Replacing old wood poles with new steel ones
  • Bringing in a mobile transformer during construction

Following consultation with the City of Fernie, including review and approval of the proposed aesthetics by their Design Review Panel, we committed to enhancing the look of the substation with landscaping and design accents consistent with Fernie's downtown heritage theme.

We'll be enhancing the look of the substation with landscaping and design accents. For example:

  • Bricks and complementary trim and detail for the new control building and other areas in the substation
  • Site and exterior building lighting that is dark sky friendly
  • Steel picket fence around the entire substation that provides a more traditional character and enhanced security
  • Extensive landscaping to create a natural setting in keeping with the area

We'll do our best to minimize the impacts, including trying to keep at least one trail open during construction. It's possible the skateboard park may need to be temporarily closed for short periods during construction, to keep workers and the public safe. If a temporary closure is needed, every effort will be made to stage it in such a way to keep the skateboard park operational during its busy season.

Once the project is completed, the substation will be set back a further three meters from the skateboard park.

At this time, we do not have a detailed construction schedule. Generally, the key steps and timeframe are:

Key steps Schedule (subject to change)
Site clearing and preparation Fall 2016
Construction start Winter 2016/2017
Upgraded substation in service Spring 2018
Completed landscaping Summer 2018

Construction will follow the City of Fernie noise bylaw with no construction noise between midnight and 6:30 a.m. Generally, construction will be 8 to 10 hours per day Mondays to Fridays. At some point, more days and hours may be required.

Best Management Practices will be applied throughout construction with respect to safety, noise and dust mitigation, and traffic control.

There will be noise associated with construction due to the use of heavy machinery and large trucks. To mitigate impacts we will:

  • Follow the City of Fernie noise by-law (see above)
  • Use noise-dampened support equipment (e.g. generators and pumps) as required

To mitigate visual and dust impacts we will:

  • Use fence-line screening to aid in the containment of dust and reduce visual impact of the work areas
  • Water disturbed areas to reduce dust
  • Establish a regular clean-up and disposal program to prevent accumulation of construction waste and debris

Protecting the environment

We've completed an environmental review, an archaeological overview assessment, and soil and initial groundwater sampling. A watercourse assessment, wildlife/vegetation field assessment (protected species) and additional groundwater sampling are expected to be completed in late spring 2016.

We'll work to avoid, minimize or mitigate environmental impacts. Environmental management and mitigation measures during construction will include:

  • Project-specific mitigation measures based on results of field assessments
  • Implementation of a site-specific Environmental Management Plan
  • Site clearing outside of the bird nesting season
  • Environmental monitoring