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Rapid City crews fight erosion on Star Village hillside

Dan Bjerke explains the erosion-preventing bagging process
C.J. Keene
Dan Bjerke explains the erosion-preventing bagging process

One particular barren hillside in Rapid City is more than just an unhealthy oddity in the Black Hills. Its erosion runoff could be a problem for Rapid Creek.

Rapid City’s Star Village, found atop a central city hill, was the scene of a recovery effort for the badly damaged hillside.

The group, made up state National Guard members, the Western Dakota Water District, the Rapid City Wildfire Mitigation crew, and Meade County Firewise Veterans are bagging the hillside to create erosion blocks. Eventually, they’ll replace the unhealthy shale with healthy, fresh topsoil.

Dan Driscoll is a director with the water district. He ran a mile-a-minute helping lead Thursday's effort, including setting up a sort-of reverse-fire line.

“These are erosion control wattles, or socks, we call them wattles," Driscoll said. "Down below us there are silt fences that are filling up with silt. We’re putting in these wattles to try and redirect that silt away from those fences.”

Dan Bjerke is the chair of the Western Dakota development District. He said this is a multi-year project and explains what happens if this hillside is neglected.

“Every time we get a heavy rain the silt washes down to the street and gets into the city drainage system and goes right to Rapid Creek," Bjerke said. "You can probably see up on the slope where the vegetation is – that used to be shale. So, we put down topsoil, we put down an erosion control mat. The grass grows up through that mat and you can see now there is no erosion coming off that area.”

The area in question is the northwest face of the hill, and the process of recovery is visible between the areas with fresh growth and those covered in shale. The project will continue over the next few years.

C.J. Keene is a Rapid City-based journalist covering the legal system, education, and culture