PHONING IT IN – Lisa Langenfeld, court reporter, is pictured alone inside the Sitka Courthouse Tuesday as judge lawyers and others speak remotely over the audio system. A sign posted on the door says,  "Effective Immediately TELEPHONIC PARTICIPATION ONLY FOR ALL HEARINGS. (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

March 20, 2020, Community Happenings

Climate Connection: Shellfish Take Care

By Callie Simmons

Freshly out of college, full of excitement and unbridled energy to tackle the world’s problems, I found myself in a windowless room shucking and blending shellfish for the Sitka Tribe of Alaska’s Resource Protection Department. Other days I would don a headlamp and collect shellfish samples during nightly low-tide excursions or drive the work truck out to the dock to collect plankton samples for the lab. For a budding scientist and newly transplanted Alaskan, this was the dream. 

Shellfish have been an important resource for Native Alaskans for millennia and continue to be a delicacy for many Southeast Alaskans today. But there is some risk associated with this harvest. Shellfish are filter feeders, which means they filter water for their food (microscopic plants, aka plankton). This can be dangerous for human consumers when shellfish accumulate high levels of naturally occurring toxins (produced by plankton) in their tissues. Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning or PSP is an illness that harvesters can get from eating contaminated shellfish, caused by a group of plankton known as Alexandrium (they look like mini hamburgers). Traditional ecological knowledge and protocols show that during summer months, with increased water temperatures and sunlight, plankton blooms (or growth) occur more often and at higher rates, therefore increasing the risk of contracting PSP. Based on these observations’ community members were encouraged to harvest shellfish only in winter months or when there was not active plankton bloom. But we know, as Southeast Alaskans, that the ocean is changing rapidly. Tools and observations we once used to avoid risks might not hold true today. 

The Sitka Tribe of Alaska (STA) works collaboratively across the region to protect and improve access to traditional foods – including shellfish. STA combines traditional knowledge with cutting edge science to measure toxicity levels of shellfish and encourage safe shellfish harvesting. This includes taking weekly water samples to monitor plankton and watch for harmful species, like Alexandrium. 

In addition, the lab tests the tissues of shellfish for high levels of toxins that would make them unsafe for people to eat. This allows community members to make informed decisions about harvesting shellfish, rather than avoiding it altogether. It’s about increasing food security. In a time where we find ourselves nervously scanning grocery store shelves, it’s comforting to know that there is an indigenous-led science movement to increase the accessibility and therefore safety of the food found locally. The Sitka Tribe of Alaska Environmental Research Lab issues shellfish advisories and publishes all their plankton finds on their website at Happy (safe) harvesting! 


Callie Simmons is a member of Drawdown Learning Circle.



Unitarians Cancel

Sunday Meetings

The Sitka Unitarian Fellowship has canceled all Sunday meetings until the outdoor Easter celebration on April 12.

Call 747-3702 for information.


Lutherans Gather,

Worship Online

Sitka Lutheran Church will gather together for worship via Facebook 10:30 a.m. Sunday.

‘‘If you have ever been hesitant to come visit a worship service, here is your chance,’’ Pastor Sandra Rudd said. “Like our Facebook page and come to worship.’’


New Arrivals

Clark Roger Hames

Clark Roger Hames was born at SEARHC Mt. Edgecumbe Medical Center 9:43 a.m. Sunday, March 15. At birth, the infant weighed 8 pounds, 14 ounces, and was 22 inches long.

Parents are Jessica Hames, a homemaker, and Brian Hames, who is employed with Hames Corporation.

Clark joins a brother, Henry Hames.

Grandparents are Roger and Mary Hames of Sitka and Daniel (late) and Cathery LeBouef of Sitka.

He is named for Jack and Pamela Clark of Fort Myers Beach, Florida.


LIO Testimony

Given by Phone

Because of the Legislative Information Office closure to foot traffic, constituents who would like to give public testimony via phone should call the Sitka LIO at 907-747-6276 or Juneau at 907-465-4648 for instructions. 

The week of March 23, the Legislature will take public testimony on: 

–March 23: 3:30 p.m. State Land Sales/Plats/Rivers; and

–March 25: 3:30 p.m. Forest Land Use Plans/Timber Sales. 

For a full list of topics, visit and click on “Public Testimony Opportunities.” Bills can be tracked by text. Call the Sitka Legislative Office at 747-6276 or visit for more information.


‘Recall Dunleavy’

Petitions Can Be

Signed at Home

Effective immediately, Recall Dunleavy has launched “Sign At Home,” a remote method of signature collection that will replace all suspended, in-person signature gathering events during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This movement has always prioritized our state’s safety, health, and economic well being,” said Claire Pywell, campaign manager of Recall Dunleavy. “We’re going above and beyond to ensure that all Alaskans have hygienic and convenient opportunities to sign the recall petition; under CDC and state guidance, we are offering Alaskans the option to sign again from the comfort of home.”

Registered Alaskan voters may now request a personal household recall petition booklet, which will be mailed directly to their mailbox for family members to sign. The personal booklet will have one sheet, allowing up to 15 signatures, versus the standard booklet with 10 sheets (150 signatures). Recall Dunleavy has now collected over 30,000 of the requisite 71,252 signatures it must collect during the petition phase to move to the final election phase.

Alaskans who have not yet signed the phase two recall petition this winter may request a booklet via mail using a simple form on Recall Dunleavy’s site:


Catholic Church

Suspends Masses

St. Gregory’s Catholic Church has suspended all daily and Sunday Masses March 14-27 as well as all church gatherings.

The church is open daily, 8 a.m.-7 p.m. for private prayer. Go to the parish website for all updates and information about what is happening in the parish, and updates from the Bishop of the Diocese of Juneau. 

The parish is working to go on-line to possibly livestream Masses in the upcoming weeks.

Any further cancellations will be coming forth on March 27. Call the church at 747-8371 with questions or if an emergency arises.


BIHA Panel

Meets Weds.

Baranof Island Housing Authority Board of Commissioners will meet 5 p.m. March 25 at 245 Katlian Street.


The meeting is closed to the public.


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Alaska COVID-19
At a Glance

(updated 4-1-20)

By Sentinel Staff

The state Department of Health and Social Services has posted the following update on the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Alaska as of 3 p.m. Wednesday. 

The list includes the total cases (and what portions are travel and non-travel-related or still being investigated):

 Total - 143 (40, 103)

 Anchorage area – 67 (24, 43)

 Homer – 2 (1, 1)

 Kenai – 1 (1, 0)

 Seward – 1 (1, 0)

 Soldotna – 2 (1, 1)

 Sterling – 2 (0, 2)

 Fairbanks area – 40 (7, 33)

 Mat-Su – 4 (2, 2)

 Juneau – 10 (1, 9)

 Ketchikan – 14 (2, 12)

The state says the cumulative number of cases hospitalized is nine, and the cumulative number of deaths is three.



Welcome to the Sitka Sentinel's web page. In order to make the Sentinel's news more easily available during the COVID-19 pandemic, we have taken down the paywall to access articles on this page. Just click on an article headline to read the story. 

March 23, 2020



For the duration of the COVID-19 disaster emergency declared by federal, state and local authorities, the Sentinel is taking additional measures to reduce virus exposure to its employees and contractors as well as to the public, while continuing to publish a daily news report for Sitka.

To the extent possible, Sentinel news and sales staff will be working from home. For the protection of our carriers, home delivery of the newspaper will be stopped effective Tuesday, March 24.

The Sentinel will continue to publish on its website Access to the website will be free to all users. The Sentinel will also produce a print edition Monday through Friday. It will be available to all readers without charge, at locations throughout town.

Initially, these locations are those where the Sentinel's newspaper vending machines are already in place. The coin mechanisms will be disabled or the doors removed to permit easy access. The Sentinel will work with the stores where the paper is usually sold, to designate a place inside or outside the store where the free edition can be made available.  

Home delivery subscriptions are on hold, and after the end of the disaster emergency, subscriptions will be extended at no charge for the number of days that there was no home delivery.

The Sentinel will make its print edition available to the public as early in the day as possible. with all personnel taking precautions to prevent spread of the virus.

The Sentinel is calling upon its customers to observe the COVID-19 emergency precautions already in place, particularly in maintaining a six-foot social distance from others at newspaper distribution sites.

Following is the statement issued by the Sentinel on March 16, stating the Sentinel's emergency procedures, which remain in effect.

The Sentinel office at 112 Barracks Street is closed to the public. We encourage people to use the phone, email or the U.S. Postal Service as much as possible.There is a slot in the front door of the office for ads, news items and payment checks. Emails may be sent to  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and the phone number is (907) 747-3219.