We're OLAWA. We're your neighbors in the Sisters area who believe that the paradise around us has been preserved as a direct result of Oregon’s land use planning laws.

For the second year in a row, Oregon is the number one destination for Americans moving between states. Growth is coming to our little neck of the woods.

With fast growth in Central Oregon, there's a lot of pressure to abandon approaches like focusing development in urban areas and protecting farmland…to whittle away land use rules with an exception here and a code change there.

But it's thanks to Oregon's smart planning policies that we enjoy the landscapes and quality of life that are drawing new people and businesses. So how can we protect what's here while making room for newcomers?

We believe there are ways for our region to grow and people to prosper under current law. OLAWA stands up for longstanding land use laws and water policies that keep Oregon from becoming like everywhere else.

We strive to find a fair balance between the needs of people, natural areas, wildlife and fish. 
What we don't support are proposals and projects that benefit special interests by skirting rules that should apply to everyone. 
Here's our mission:

Oregon Land and Water Alliance advocates for protection of land use laws and sustainable water policy. OLAWA actively monitors, analyzes, and raises awareness of issues affecting residents and visitors in Sisters Country.

As more people and businesses move here there are increased demands on water supply. It takes ever-present awareness and action to keep our land use laws intact and speak up about impacts to Whychus Creek and the Deschutes Basin. 

We need to be ready. Proposals come up weekly that could
 impact our land and water. To be able to react quickly, we need to have people and tools in place.

So we're pleased to announce we've formalized as a new nonprofit, with the aim of keeping more people informed. 

If you've already helped us with your time, energy or money, THANK YOU. If you're not yet a supporter, we invite you to learn about our successes—and the challenges right ahead.

Join us in preserving what makes Oregon Oregon, right here in the Sisters Country. 

Towns in the towns, farming on the farms, forests in the forests.

Priority Issue

What we're doing right now to shape the direction of growth coming to the Sisters Country. Learn more.

Water Update

Whychus Creek, the Deschutes Basin study, the drought and more. Learn more.

Land Matters

Thornburgh mega-resort, new bills in Salem, and actual enforcement of land use codes. Learn more.

Priority Issue

We're keeping close watch on proposals that come up every week in Deschutes County requesting exemptions to land use laws, especially on EFU (Exclusive Farm Use) lands. 

Bills to allow many more kinds of development on farm and forest lands—like sprawling commercial areas, subdivisions and more destination resorts—have been introduced in every recent legislative session. They're often written to benefit only one special interest. 

In February, we'll also be focused on new state legislative attempts to erode Oregon’s land use laws. 

Land Matters

Thornburgh Resort would transform rural Tumalo near Cline Buttes forever. What's been proposed?
  • 950 homes
  • three 18-hole golf courses
  • water ski lake and 85 acres of water features
  • 500 hotel rooms 
  • 400 time-share condos
  • 50 commercial enterprises
The local Oregon Water Resources Department water expert says that a typical golf course typically uses ONE MILLION GALLONS of groundwater per day in summer. Our drought-stricken county is not the right place for this resort, which will have negative impacts on the water table and likely higher temperatures in Whychus Creek. And that's bad for fish recovery and the health of the waterway.

OLAWA members have testified against this controversial proposal, which is being reconsidered by Deschutes County. Stay tuned about how to help.

Current Deschutes County land use codes and rules are not being enfor-ced and are often ignored. OLAWA has been working with county officials to enact changes to the county code which would block NEW building permits and other land use applications if the property owner has outstanding code violations or hasn't complied with prior land use requirements. A final county decision is expected any day.

Water Update

This year saw a formal drought declaration by the governor for Three Sisters Irrigation District—and all of Deschutes County. Reduced meltwater from our mountain snow pack, climate change and population growth are now putting additional strain on Whychus Creek and groundwater supplies.

Fish are dying in the Deschutes River, but it’s not just local fish and wildlife that are at increasing risk from water scarcity. 

Our agricultural base is also under threat. A healthy ag economy is necessary if we want to keep farmland in production and preserve it for future generations. Finding win-wins is a key concern for OLAWA, and it won't be easy in a future with a diminishing water supply.

OLAWA is also working for long-term water health with a seat at the 
table as part of the Deschutes Basin Study Work Group, an effort to help define how water needs for rivers, agriculture and communities will be met for the next 50 years. The Group is exploring scientifically sound ways to ensure the most prudent use of existing water resources through conservation. 

We'll also be tracking revisions to the Deschutes Basin Groundwater Mitigation Program, a water bank that requires those who pump additional groundwater to offset the impact by adding water from other sources back into the hydrological system. A key issue is the definition of the "zones of impact" where the added water has to be returned. This is important because within our Basin groundwater pumping can have effects far from the well, including consequences for steelhead and salmon reintroduction efforts.

We're interested in learning about possible impacts of the drought on the local water table. Have you had to deepen your well in recent years? Seeing any changes in your water system? Let us know.
Get Involved
We need your help, to continue making sure Sisters Country land use proposals abide by the rules. Please contribute what you can so we can fund coming educational activities and our nonprofit startup costs.

Donate by sending a check made out to OLAWA to P.O. Box 1166, Sisters, OR 97759

With gratitude, 



Board Members

Jerry Norquist, President
Eva Eagle, Vice President
Paul Lipscomb, Vice President
Bruce Bowen, Treasurer
Donna Lipscomb, Secretary

Ana Blair
Pamela Burry
Chuck Humphreys
Kimry Jelen
Dennis McGregor
Merry Ann Moore
Oregon Land and Water Alliance recently applied for tax exempt status from the IRS and have been assured by our legal advisor that when our 501(c)(3) status is formally approved, it will be retroactive to our original date of incorporation, November 6, 2015.  Contributions made after that date may be tax deductible as a charitable contribution in accordance with IRS regulations.
Copyright © 2015 OLAWA, all rights reserved. Photo contributors: Brent McGregor and Sandy Lonsdale
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