Rachel Waldholz, KCAW - Sitka
The Affordable Care Act is a big law with plenty of ripple effects, but at its heart is a pretty simple premise: Americans who lack health insurance should be able to go online and pick a plan, and if their income falls beneath a certain threshold, then the federal government will cover part of the cost. That is, unless you live in Alaska, or one of the other states that has opted out of the federal Medicaid expansion. Then, you can actually make too little money to qualify for help. This is what some are calling the “Medicaid donut hole.” And falling into the donut hole can be a frustrating experience.
New figures from the Obama administration show more than 6500 Alaskans have enrolled in insurance plans on healthcare.gov. The deadline to sign up is March 31st. And that has prompted many Alaskans to bite the bullet and figure out what the Affordable Care Act means for them. For some commercial fishermen and others who are self-employed, what they’ve found has been a pleasant surprise.
Sitka’s Blue Lake dam expansion project will cost about $3.6-million more than expected. The total project — not including new backup diesel generators — was originally estimated to cost about $142-million. It is now up to about $145-million, Utility Director Chris Brewton told the Sitka assembly Tuesday night (2-25-14).
In November, work began on Sitka’s ANB harbor. The $7.7 million project will demolish all of the existing structures and replace them with new floats and pilings by early spring. But a small invader in the harbor has added a wrinkle to the usual process.
Earlier this year, the telecom giant GCI moved into a new line of business, buying three television stations in Sitka, Juneau and Anchorage. It turns out those purchases were just the beginning. This month, GCI announced plans to buy three more TV stations in Southeast Alaska. If approved, the deal could mark a new era in Alaska media.
In 2003, a Sitka couple proposed creating a bear rescue center from the remains of the town’s decommissioned pulp mill – a plan that raised some local hackles. Ten years later, the Fortress of the Bear is home to five brown bears and two new black bear cubs – and it has converted some skeptics, including a local biologist.
In the back of most Sitkans’ mind is this question: When the big wave comes, will my house be under water? Researchers at the Alaska Earthquake Information Center have an answer, of sorts. This month, they released a new map outlining which parts of Sitka would be affected by a major tsunami.
Sitka has been named one of the most pedestrian-friendly cities in America. The city gets about 86 inches of rain each year and nearly half of the city’s incorporated area sits under water – a pair of statistics that, to an outsider, might not suggest a community built for travel by foot. But this year, Sitka became the first city in Alaska to be named a “walk friendly” community.
The orphaned black bear cub who recently became famous in the virtual world is settling into her new home in the real world. Over 300,000 people viewed Smokey’s story on Facebook when she was captured two weeks ago in Seward. Now, Sitka’s bear habitat, the Fortress of the Bear, is writing her next chapter.
ANB harbor is usually packed with commercial fishing vessels, but this week, it’s empty. Its regular occupants have moved to other harbors around Sitka, as the city prepares to demolish all of the existing structures and replace the harbor entirely. Construction is scheduled to start in early November.
The commander of the Sitka-based Coast Guard cutter Maple has been temporarily removed from command after officials received reports of problems on board.
For many residents of Tenakee Springs, in Southeast Alaska, life revolves around the community bath house, which is fed by the hot springs that give the town its name. Now, this old local institution is receiving a very 21st century renovation, as local people have raised money to convert the building to geothermal heat, putting a modern spin on the town’s ancient resource.
Nearly 80 years ago, the tide pools around Sitka inspired a pair of naturalists – Ed Ricketts and Jack Calvin – who went on to transform the way we think about marine biology. Last week, a new set of researchers arrived in the community to explore the same beaches, and remind Sitka of its place in the history of science.
You may use Facebook to share photos from your summer vacation or goof off at work. But Sitka resident Rick Armstrong has found a different use for the social network – he’s using Facebook to try to catch a thief.
When the Supreme Court decided to uphold most of the Affordable Care Act, it raised a whole batch of new questions about how the legislation will play out — and it’s those unknowns that have some small businesses on edge.
Over 30 years ago, the Sitkoh River watershed on Chichigoff Island was logged, damaging the local salmon habitat. Now, the US Forest Service is partnering with environmental groups to restore the river – and they say the project is a perfect example of broader changes taking place on the Tongass.
When you think of food in Alaska you might think of king salmon or moose – farming is not really our forte. But some Alaskans are trying to change that – at least on a small scale. In Sitka, you can find two large, transparent plastic tunnels for growing produce, rising from a front yard.