PASSING THROUGH – Orca whales swim near the Indian River estuary Thursday night. A pod of more than a half-dozen adult and juvenile orcas spent the late afternoon in Sitka Sound near shore as people along Sawmill Creek Road photographed and video recorded them. NOAA Fisheries recommends staying at least 100 yards away while viewing whales from boats. (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

May 22, 2020, Community Happenings

Library Updates Process


To Check Out Items, Books

Sitka Public Library is in the first phase of its re-opening process. The building will remain closed to the public, but it will have walk-up services available on the ocean side of the building. There will be two window options.

At the Grab N’ Go Window, after confirming a pickup time for held items, they will be checked out and placed at the window. Individuals will need a photo identification or library card and are asked to ring the bell. A staff member will pass the items  through the window. Grab and go kits for kids, youth programming materials, and summer reading incentives can also be picked up there. 

All other services will be provided at the walk-up window.

A librarian will be available to answer reference questions, help register for a library card, or assist in checking out up to five items at a time.

Items can be returned to the book drop located at the front entrance of the library. No returns will be accepted at either walk-up window. Donations are not being taken at this time.

In addition to the walk-up services,  patrons are being encouraged to continue taking advantage of the wide selection of digital resources. Holds can be placed online using library accounts and contact the library to confirm pickup in advance. The sidewalk has been marked to help the public maintain good social distancing. Everyone is being encouraged to continue wearing masks and washing their hands frequently. 

New operating hours are: noon-7 p.m. Monday-Thursday; noon-6 p.m. Friday; noon to 4 p.m. Saturday; and closed on Sundays.


Those who have questions can call at 747-4020. 


Girls on the Run Schedules


Virtual 5K Run for Weekend

Girls on the Run will offer a virtual 5K in place of the usual in-person event Saturday, May 23, and Sunday, May 24. It is open to the public.

Once registered, participants will determine their own time to run, walk, or roll 3.1 miles or a distance of their choosing while following social distancing guidelines. Two potential 5K courses are along the Sea Walk and through Sitka National Historical Park or on the Cross Trail, but people can select their own route.

Snap a photo along the way and  email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or share with Girls on the Run of Greater Alaska on Facebook using #GOTR5K.

‘‘If you see a GOTR runner dressed in bright, rainbow colors, make sure to cheer them on,’’ Sitkans Against Family Violence said in a press release.


For information and to register for free, visit Registrants will be entered to win one of two $20 Sea Mart gift cards. The event is sponsored by SAFV and Pathways Coalition Partners.


Citywide Spring Cleanup


Rescheduled for Summer

The annual citywide spring cleanup has been rescheduled to July 18-26. The original date was canceled because of city and state COVID-19 mandates.

The Jarvis Street Transfer Station will be open 8 a.m.-4 p.m. July 18-26. Residential property owners can clean up their property and haul acceptable refuse to the station free of charge during spring cleanup days. Batteries, paint and metals are not being accepted. Commercial waste will be charged at the standard rate, the city said.

Yellow spring cleanup garbage bags can be picked up at the fire hall.

The Sawmill Creek Scrap Yard also will accept items 8 a.m.-4 p.m. daily July 18-26. Vehicles, s crap metal, water tanks, refrigerators (clean), dryers, washing machines, stoves, aluminum boats, boat trailers, outboards and lower units (drained of oil), properly cleaned fuel tanks and residential fluorescent bulbs will be accepted free of charge. Commercial waste will be charged at the standard rate.

The city said vehicles three-quarter ton rated or smaller will be accepted free of charge. The inside of the vehicle must be clean of all garbage. Larger vehicles will be charged at the standard rate and accepted by scheduled appointment. All vehicles must be accompanied with a title or notarized 849 DMV form. Vehicles must be towed at the owner’s expense.

Postponed until fall is the household hazardous waste collection.

Recyclables, residential yard waste and junked boats are being accepted this year.

Residents can recycle glass, tin cans, aluminum, #1 and #2 plastics and corrugated cardboard at the Recycling Center, 802 Sawmill Creek Road.

Residential yard waste, up to five cubic yards per customer, can go free of charge to the Granite Creek Waste Area, 402 Granite Creek Road, weekends only 8 a.m.-4 p.m. July 18-26 (pickup truck loads only). Commercial operators’ waste is not part of the spring cleanup event and must be paid for. Yard waste includes brush, overburden, stumps and green waste.

Junk boats will be charged at the standard rate according to size, the city said. Boats must be clean of any debris including engines, outdrives and fuel tanks. Metal boats will be accepted at the Sawmill Cove Scrap Yard. Wood or fiberglass boats will be accepted at the Sitka Landfill by approval and appointment only. 

Contact the city public works maintenance shop at 747-4041 to schedule disposal at the Sitka landfill.

For more information about the cleanup event, call 747-1804.



Sitka Quiltmaker Makes


Masks for Ranger District

Gerry VonRekowski, quiltmaker and former Sitka librarian, recently took on a new role as the official mask-maker for the Sitka Ranger District.

The district purchased materials, preferring the durability of fabric masks, and VonRekowski took on the task of creating 50 masks for the USDA Forest Service employees in Sitka.

“We so appreciate Gerry’s talents and efforts,’’ said Michelle Putz, National Environmental Policy Act planner in Sitka. ‘‘The Forest Service offers a heartfelt thank you to Gerry for her fast and hard work to protect our employees and the public during this pandemic.

“And thanks to the Southeast Mask Makers for helping so many in Southeast Alaska have masks available,” Putz said.


COVID-19 Memorial

Service is Online

The National Council of Churches USA will hold a public online memorial service  “A Time to Mourn: An Ecumenical Memorial Service for those lost to COVID-19” 2 p.m. Sunday, May 24.

  Information for the service can be found on the NCC website at



St. Gregory Church

Sets Limited Opener

St. Gregory’s Catholic Church will be opening the Ave Maria Chapel at 105 Baranof Street for limited prayer time beginning Friday, May 22.


Go to the parish website for the entire schedule of dates and times. The Church continues to be closed for Mass and prayer until further notice.



Climate Connection:

By Callie Simmons

Not all species are losers when it comes to climate change. A new study finds that sablefish (black cod) can thrive in warmer ocean conditions with one important caveat: they must have enough high-quality food. There are ecosystem-wide winners and losers associated with the impacts of climate change. We tend to focus on the ecological losers, but what about the species who have the flexibility to thrive in projected warmer conditions? Recently, scientists were able to track sablefish growth rates to see how they responded to an increase in water temperatures. 

Sablefish are a key component to our sub-arctic food web in Sitka Sound and they are highly valued by fish processors, with an annual ex-vessel value of around $100 million in Alaska. Predicting how sablefish will respond to projected ocean conditions may help regulators manage this valuable fishery. The scientific community understands that higher latitudes are experiencing accelerated and more pronounced impacts of climate change including heat waves like the one observed between 2013 and 2015. Understanding how sablefish respond to shifts in the environment allows scientists to better predict the impacts of climate change on a given population.  

Scientists from the National Marine Fisheries Service, the University of Alaska Fairbanks, and the Sitka Sound Science Center recently published a paper in the peer reviewed Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology demonstrating how sablefish can survive in warmer temperatures. 

This research was conducted at the Auke Bay Laboratory in Juneau in 2016 and 2017 using wild caught fish. The scientists grew the fish at different temperatures to see if sablefish can handle warmer water temperatures. By carefully measuring the amount of food they ate and their growth, scientists were able to quantify how much energy the fish spent on things like metabolism, waste, or growth. They used these data to construct a bioenergetics model that allowed them to predict how much food fish need to grow at different temperatures. The logic behind it is simple – if you know how much a fish eats and you know how much waste it produces and how much of the food is used for respiration then you can calculate how much the fish grows. Knowing this allows scientists to track whether a fish continued to grow (or had the same energy demands) in warmer water temperatures.

The results from this research were clear – temperature had major impacts on the growth of sablefish. Daily growth and feeding rates increased with temperature when the water was between 41° and 60° F. Above that temperature, feeding rates began to sharply decline. Sablefish ate and grew more as temperatures rose- up to a certain point. 

Sablefish are unusual because they display some of the highest growth rates known to fishery scientists. The recent research demonstrates that this rapid growth is sustained by warm temperatures and access to high energy food. When those things align as they did during the recent heat wave, large numbers of juvenile sablefish survive to become adults. Sablefish are long-lived, so strong year classes are important for maintaining the abundance of the adult population. This research demonstrates how temperature and food quality combine to support sablefish stocks. 

The recent heat wave in the Gulf of Alaska that lasted between 2013 and 2015 triggered major changes to marine habitats from the shoreline out into the Gulf basin. These unprecedented changes in water temperature wreaked havoc between the coastlines of Alaska and California, causing massive seabird die-offs, increased toxic algal blooms, fishery collapses, and whale strandings – to name just a few. The increased abundance of young sablefish in the years following the marine heat wave, however, could be explained by their resiliency to warmer water temperatures. 

Understanding how sablefish interact and respond to changes in their environment provides critical insight for projecting impacts on populations in the wake of climate change. Water temperature impacts the growth of sablefish and suggests that they can handle some degree of ocean warming. Climate change is not always a story of vast destruction – there are more resilient, adaptable “winners” out there, than we think.    


Callie Simmons is the Research Coordinator at Sitka Sound Science Center


Craft-to-Go at

Public Library

Ages 4 to 6 can register to reserve a theme craft-kit-to-go to participate in the Summer Story Craft program at Sitka Public Library beginning Tuesday, May 26.

Kits are free, and will be ready every Saturday at noon, but families can pick them up at the Grab N Go window any time during the library’s operating hours.

Registration is required. Participants can register one week at a time or more. Upcoming themes are: May 30, ‘‘Unicorns’’; June 6, ‘‘Gnomes and Fairies’’; June 13, ‘‘Mermaids and Pirates’’; June 20, ‘‘Royalty’’; and June 27, ‘‘Red, White and Blue.’’

For information call the library at 747-4020.


Adventure Book

Club for Ages 8-10

Sitka Public Library invites ages 8 to 10 to join the Imagine your Story Interactive Fairy Tale Adventure online book club this summer. 

The first meeting will be 3:30-4:15 p.m. Tuesday, June 9. Participants are reminded to register ahead of time to get a program kit with directions and activities to do during the program.

The program will require an e-mail address to send an online platform invitation to participate.

To register call 747 4020 or e-mailing at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .


Be-Tween Club

At Public Library

Tweens, ages 10 to 12, can join an online Imagine Your Story Be-Tween Club hour hosted by Sitka Public Library 5-6 p.m. Friday, June 19.

A kit with directions, snacks and materials for the Collage Your Story program will be available at registration. The program requires an e-mail address to send an online platform invitation to participate.

Registrations can be done over the phone at 747 4020 or via e-mail at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .



Summer Food

Program on Tap

Sitka School District is participating in the Summer Food Service Program through June 30.

Meals will be provided to all children without charge regardless of race, color, national origin, sex, age or disability.

Meals will be distributed at Sitka High School main parking lot. Another location may be designated if waivers are not approved by May 30, the school district said.

Distribution days are 8:30 a.m.-noon Tuesdays (three meals) and 8:30 a.m.-noon Fridays (four meals). If pickup is a hardship, the school district said to email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to arrange delivery.

Next week, the meal distribution has been moved to Wednesday, 8:30 a.m.-noon. Two meals will be given on that day and four meals will be offered on Friday.

Meals will continue to be distributed 8:30 a.m.-noon on Tuesdays and Fridays through June 26, the last day of the distribution.


BIHA Board Meets

Baranof Island Housing Authority board of commissioners will meet 5:30 p.m. May 27. The meeting is closed to the public.

To request to comment under the agenda item ‘‘persons to be heard,’’ send an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

You have no rights to post comments



Alaska COVID-19
At a Glance

(updated 7-31-20)

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 12:50 p.m. Friday.

New cases as of Thursday: 108

Total statewide – 2,990

Total (cumulative) deaths – 23

Active cases in Sitka – 15 (10 resident; 5 non-resident) *

Recovered cases in Sitka – 15 (11 resident; 4 non-resident) *

The state says the cumulative number of cases hospitalized is 133.

To visit the Alaska DHSS Corona Response dashboard website click here.

* These numbers reflect State of Alaska data. Local cases may not immediately appear on DHSS site, or are reported on patient’s town of residence rather than Sitka’s statistics. 



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.                                                                          

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July 2000

Clinton Buckmaster shot and wounded a large brown bear Tuesday night when it charged him near his Thimbleberry Bay home in the 2100 block of Sawmill Creek Road. As of press time, the bear was still at large.

July 1970

The city council agreed at a special meeting Thursday to consider the request of Alaska Native Brotherhood Camp No. 1 for redevelopment planning funds for the Indian Village. Cost has been estimated at $12,000.