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Pipeline work to bring hundreds of workers to Fernie

A pipeline through this part of BC will add to an expected busy summer season for the Elk Valley
The Morrissey bridge to the south of Fernie has been repaired ahead of its use as the major access point for pipeline construction work to the east of Fernie in 2022, 2023 and 2024. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)

There’ll be a lot more heads on beds in Fernie area this summer – and not just tourists.

A natural gas pipeline project will be coming through this part of British Columbia, connecting lines in Alberta through to the United States in works that will take three years to complete, starting this summer.

For the area, that means a worker surge of up to 600 workers at its peak in summer months.

According to Jikke Gyorki of Tourism Fernie, this means that hotel beds, short term rentals and even RV spots could be soaked up by workers, with the company building the pipeline – TC Energy – taking a good look at bed capacity around the area.

“Our accommodators are good at knowing their business,” said Gyorki, explaining that different accommodators were taking different approaches to how to provide for the company, given that many were looking to pick back up on the tourism market coming out of the pandemic.

“There are accommodators not willing to give any rooms up, and then there’s other lodging properties where they’ve always done a lot of corporate business, where they’re giving the bulk of their rooms over.”

Gyorki said that at Tourism Fernie they were trying to keep track of which accommodators were giving over rooms so they had a handle on capacity and expectations.

The project by TC Energy will construct a 31km natural gas pipeline 18km to the east of Fernie, from the Alberta border down towards Elko. It’s projected to take three years with most workers coming between June and October.

Gyorki said that the surge will have an impact on accommodation availability, so if you have visitors coming – tell them to book now.

“We’ve given the heads-up to stakeholders and event organizers … to make sure they tell their ticket holders that they should book their accommodations.

”It’s not going to take long for there not to be units left.”

Gyorki said they were also staying in contact with TC about the needs of those workers, and how their presence would affect local businesses with increased demand for food, drink and entertainment, especially given Fernie was already suffering a labour shortage.

“It’s going to be busy this summer in Fernie just as a tourism destination … it’s not like there’s three more hotels being built given there’s that many more people coming.”

TC Energy is the primary contractor, but there will be subcontractors related to the work. According to a Tourism Fernie email, the 2022 summer season will see around 500 workers associated with the project in the area through to October. They come back in 2023 between May and October with around 600 workers, and there’s a final, much smaller surge of around a hundred workers coming in summer 2024.

The access point for the work will be the Morrissey area, with the Morrissey bridge repaired ahead of works to be carried out. Accommodation may be spread further than the Fernie area to Cranbrook.

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