Collecting rain water is the most natural sourcing you can do. However a resident from Oregon has been prosecuted and sentenced to a jail term for doing just that.
Gary Harrington, a 64 year-old from Eagle Point, Oregon was sentenced to 30 days in jail and was issued with a $1,500 fine. As far back as 1973, Harrington together with his brother Michael, had actually applied for a water certificate, but, as he was collecting rainwater, the water master deemed they couldn’t issue him one.
So over the intervening years Harrington had built three large ponds on his 170 acre property to collect the rainwater. By simply collecting snow runoff and rainwater, his ponds hold more than 13 million gallons of water that he uses to irrigate crops. Could that be anymore natural, albeit on a larger scale than most.
One of the ponds, or reservoirs, also holds large-mouth bass, helping this family live a sustainable life. The size of this natural reservoir is such that small docks have been added over time where friends and family can sit and fish in peace.
It’s a place where family and friends spend hot summer days and where wildfire rigs can hook up to a water line any time they need a refill, at no charge from Harrington, who says“The fish and the docks are icing on the cake, it’s totally committed to fire suppression.”
Some of the water is collected for indoor use, which whilst being actually forbidden in some states, it is legal in Oregon. However small print says it is supposed to be done off an impervious surface such as a parking lots or rooftops and funneled into rain barrels. Infact local officials said “If it’s not gathered on an artificial, impervious surface, such as a rooftop, then you need a state water-right permit to collect it”.
Harrington’s actions have led to an 11 year battle with state authorities which culminated in him being convicted of nine misdemeanors and sentenced to 30 days in jail, slapped with a $1,500 fine, and ordered to destroy his dams to drain the water from his ponds. Due to a lack of permits which he had been previously advised were not necessary.
This seems crazy at a time where other states are suffering drought conditions , yet one man who has purely collected what nature provides is forced to drain more than 13 million gallons of water.
Here is a short video describing Harrington’s case:
- EAGLE POINT — At 13 feet deep and well over an acre in size, one of Gary Harrington’s three illegal reservoirs off Crowfoot Road looks more like a private playground than a rain-fed, backyard fire pond.
Jamie Lusch» RELATED CONTENT
By Mark Freeman
Posted Aug. 5, 2012 @ 12:01 am
Updated Aug 5, 2012 at 2:50 AM
EAGLE POINT — At 13 feet deep and well over an acre in size, one of Gary Harrington’s three illegal reservoirs off Crowfoot Road looks more like a private playground than a rain-fed, backyard fire pond.
A fishing dock lined with rods and rod holders is tethered to shore near an outdoor barbecue. Boats line the bank. A fish feeder floats nearby, dispensing food to the illegally stocked largemouth bass Harrington says he bought from a Medford pet store.
It’s a place where family and friends spend hot summer days and where wildfire rigs can hook up to a water line any time they need a refill, free of charge.
“The fish and the docks are icing on the cake,” says Harrington, 63. “It’s totally committed to fire suppression.”
It’s a story state police and water managers have heard for more than a decade and still consider irrelevant. Ditto for state courts that three times over an 11-year span have convicted Harrington of illegally storing water without a permit. On Wednesday, Harrington must report to the Jackson County Jail for a 30-day sentence for his latest conviction.
Jackson County Circuit Judge Timothy Gerking last month ordered Harrington to drain the ponds, breach the dams built to create them and pay $1,500 in fines.
But Harrington’s not budging, and he’s undergoing a series of gyrations to keep the ponds and dams intact.
Now 0-for-3 in the court system, Harrington is taking his case to the court of public opinion to gather property-rights sympathies as simply a landowner capturing the rain that falls on his land.
To state officials, Harrington is a serial water thief. To supporters, he’s “Rain Man,” a poster boy for those who believe government is overstepping its bounds.
He’s done about two-dozen radio and television appearances since his July 25 sentencing, all carefully screened to ensure his property-rights message gets across.
“We’re controlling what’s being said, so we get the facts out there,” says Dominic Nutter, who calls himself a legal researcher and not a lawyer who is advising Harrington and screening his media requests. “We’re trying to make sure people understand what their rights are.”
Water resources officials say his rights are clear: He cannot store water without a permit, and he does not have a permit.
The law exempts water collected off parking lots or rooftops and funneled into rain barrels, water resources officials say. If it’s not gathered on an artificial, impervious surface, such as a rooftop, then you need a state water-right permit to collect it.
That’s way different than the roughly 40 acre-feet of water — enough to fill 20 Olympic-sized swimming pools — Harrington illegally captures without a water right behind dams as much as 20 feet tall that he built without permits, state officials say.
“Mr. Harrington has operated these three reservoirs in flagrant violation of Oregon law for more than a decade,” Oregon Water Resources Department Deputy Director Tom Paul says.
“What we’re after is compliance with Oregon water law, regardless of what the public thinks of Mr. Harrington,” Paul says.
Harrington said he has appealed his conviction to the Oregon Court of Appeals and has asked the Oregon Supreme Court to step in and keep Gerking’s rulings from being enforced during his appeal.
On July 18, a week after his conviction and a week before his sentencing, Harrington deeded four tax lots that include the three ponds for $4 to the Farm of the Family Health and Recreation Association. Harrington calls it a “private member association” he set up on June 1 that includes Harrington and select friends and family.
Nutter says the ponds now belong to the association, which has no legal beef with water resources managers.
“The crime follows Gary, not the properties,” Nutter says.
Because Harrington was issued three years of bench probation that includes conditions that he drain the reservoirs and breach the dams, those conditions still apply, says Kate Medema, a state Department of Justice spokeswoman.
“If he says he has no authority to do so in light of these deeds, we’ll probably end up back in court,” Medema says. “We expect Mr. Harrington to follow the conditions of his probation.”
Harrington has argued in court filings that neither he nor any Oregonian is beholden to the water resources department because its members failed to take and file the proper oaths of office Harrington claims are required by the Oregon Constitution.
Gerking ruled against Harrington’s claim.
“Mr. Harrington misinterpreted the state and federal constitutions and his reading of them is overly broad,” Medema says. “His reading would, essentially, require every state employee to take an oath of office.”
Harrington has posted signs on his properties warning any state officers to stay off his property, citing protections under the First and 14th amendments to the U.S. Constitution.
Sine Harrington’s sentencing, state water-resources officials have attempted to gain access to his property to see whether Harrington has complied with the judge’s order, but were denied, Paul says.
“I think the court is going to look to us to enforce the judge’s order,” Paul says.
Water resources officials further discussed the case last week with Patrick Flanagan, the Department of Justice prosecutor who handled the most recent case, Paul says. Paul declined to discuss the nature of those discussions.
Between radio and television appearances last week, Harrington set up a website with links to interviews on Fox News Channel’s “Fox and Friends” and other media outlets. Fox News is owned by News Corp., which also owns the Mail Tribune and Ashland Daily Tidings.
The website, http://www.empoweringthejury.org, includes a petition to the state of Oregon to reverse Harrington’s July 11 guilty verdict.
Harrington has solicited a videographer to film footage showing that his reservoirs don’t have creeks flowing into them. He intends to post it and other information about his defense that he wasn’t allowed to present in court, he says.
Frustrated water managers are unimpressed.
“We’ve been working on this about 10 years,” Paul says. “We very much support what the court did.”
As the water drama continues to play out, Harrington relishes his Rain Man role in what he and his supporters couch as one little guy’s fight against big government.
“I guess I’m not surprised,” Harrington says. “I realized a while ago that this is a fight worth fighting.”
Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470, or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Agreed. This isn’t rainwater collection at all, I would be protesting on his behalf if it was. I’m surprised his neighbor hasn’t sued, essentially he’s stealing their water.
i have a koi pond in my back yard and when it rains it “collects” ‘gubment rain. i better watch out for the donut eaters from the medford water commission. when i jog i breath a lot of ‘gubment air, which PERS collecting deadbeat from Salem is monitoring citizen oxygen consumption?
Did the STATE place their water on his property or should he get a business license and charge the STATE for storage?
From the People comes the Supreme authority. Stand up for you brother, Oregonians, and bother the hell out of your local officials.
To make joinder of the water and the ground Harrington should place some sort of rubber carpet on the bottom of the ponds. The easiest method is to setup a laser matrix around the perimeter of the ponds through which the rain drops pass through. It is that laser field that makes joinder, where the rain then passes through or touches a man-made barrier (or invention) when it could have easily not come in through that barrier during a typhoon.. . .
Start charging the STATE a daily fine and charge the State for not protecting your State’s constitutional Rights. Have the agreement signed and notarized by a STATE official and request a default judgement if the STATE does not want to live up to his end of the contract.« less
In the first place as I understand this….Gary had a permit to capture the rain water. He paid for the permit . He did all the work built the ponds to capture the rain water. Now for year Oregon wants to take the permit away from him. From what I understand that is what he is fighting Oregon. This artical does not state all the facts.
We are so lucky to have you and the rest of the liberals here to educate us rednecks on how to live, educate our children and organize our society. Now if only you could pay for it yourself? Oh I forgot, you do not actually produce anything and depend on us rednecks to pay for the world you think we should have. Quit relying on the government to take care of you and think for yourself as a free individual!
No, Beccky. An ornamental pond is one thing, this is far from that. Theses ponds would have dried up by mid-July if it were. Instead, he seems to have claimed rights to a natural resource, via a tributary that happens to run through his property.
Problem is, that tributary is an easement and would have long before he bought the property. Meaning it’s spelled out on his property deed and not part of his taxable lot.
He knew about this the first couple times he went rounds with the County…. » more
The Gov’t is us……Back to Pogo? We own it, airwaves, rivers, national forest etc..etc.
The rules re: water go back a very long way. This case illustrates the need. Can a person capture a creek into a reservoir and deny YOU water down stream and starved your crops leave your home dry…..Who’s water would it be? The guy at the top of the hill? Dismiss the rain water argument, can a property owner above you capture a stream and if no why not. The water is his as it’s on his property, right?
“Rednecks”. What exactly is a Redneck, Elmworm? If by redneck you mean someone like myself with a BS in computer science, NPC North Coast body building champion, and a professional rock drummer…guilty as charged, though I wouldn’t suspect anyone would ever confuse me with your definition of a redneck. If on the other hand you enjoy ‘Lamb of God, or A7X, you might want to rethink your position about me being a Redneck. I would say that resorting to antiquated generalizations and name calling… » more
GNTAN and all the other rednecks here think that each and every one of “us here Americans” should be able to just go ahead and build a dam any time we want on our property without a permit. Then, when your homemade dam gives way and floods the property below you killing a lot of innocent people (as happened on Kauai a couple of years ago killing seven, including children) you’ll all grab your rifles and shoot the barbarians at the gate when they come to arrest you. Brilliant!!!
He got greedy and then flaunted his greed in people’s faces (the State’s face). He created a “members only” recreation area, and did so three times over. If he had just ONE pond, no fish or docks, and bought the damned permit, no feathers would ruffled. Instead, he spat in the face of the State (and consequently the faces of people who are on wells anywhere near his property), and turned it into a cook-out central. Next, we will hear of him renting camping space along side his “fire… » more
So SPIDER and all you other rednecks think that each and every one of “us here Americans” should be free to just go ahead and build a dam on our property without a permit. Then, when your homemade dam gives way and floods the property below killing a bunch of innocent people (as happened on Kauai a couple of years ago killing seven, including children) you’ll grab your rifles and shoot the barbarians at the gate when they come to arrest you. Brilliant!!!
the communists will tell you how to live, what kind of car to drive, what to think, they will control what you read, what to eat, where and if you are educated and ultimately what to think. the crone bolshevik, hillary clinton, is busy right now taking away your 2nd amendment rights and having the other communists at the united nations take away your guns.
the ‘gubment pinkos tell this poor guy the rain belongs to ‘da ‘gubment and now is throwing him in jail. the people are slaves to their… » more
“The real story here is that it took ten years to finally convict this crazy redneck who decided a decade ago that he’s above the law.”
So let me see if I understand you…Because a bunch of elected and non elected suits get together in a room (usually on the tax payers dime) and come up with more and more ways to control our lives each and every day, 365 days a year, year after year, that makes all the idiotic laws and rules forced down our throats good… Really? Do you actually think that… » more
Perhaps it’s a fair question, questioning the integrity of a home built 20 foot dam and the possible damage a breech may cause…
That rain water feeds aquifers and streams needed by all. The public ownership makes sense to me and we could view the state as protecting water for the public in general. If every property owner did the same what might the impacts be?
Anti water use by the public? If the State can show that Mr. Harrington is keeping rainwater from reaching its natural course into our public water reservoir,or any reservoir, such as a neighbors well, then it is he, Mr. Harrington that is keeping water from the public. In this case, I believe that the courts will decide that the State is acting to defend all Southern Oregonians who depend on this water.
The big issue here is local, state,and federal agencies in Oregon have developed management positions that are anti water use of any kind by the public. These agencies are anti dams, irrigation, water storage,recreation, fishing, and people living in areas that don’t use city water systems. Start attending any meetings in Oregon on water and you find that the bottom line is control all water use.
The real story here is that it took ten years to finally convict this crazy redneck who decided a decade ago that he’s above the law. This isn’t about some guy living in the middle of nowhere collecting rain in a barrel. It’s about a scofflaw living in Eagle Point, Oregon who decided to illegally build a twenty foot high dam in order to create his own private recreational lake at the expense of his neighbor’s water rights. This guy Harrington (why does that name sound so… » more
The real story hear is that it took ten years to finally convict this crazy redneck who decided a decade ago that he’s above the law. This isn’t about some guy living in the middle of nowhere collecting rain in a barrel. It’s about a scofflaw living in Eagle Point, Oregon who decided to illegally build a twenty foot high dam in order to create his own private recreational lake at the expense of his neighbor’s water rights. This guy Harrington (why does that name sound familiar?) has unilateraly decided it’s OK to divert water runoff that belongs to all of us so he can go bass fishing in his backyard. Gary Harrington can just go jump in the lake. He won’t have to go very far to do it!!