“They’ve just gotten to be big bullies and if you just lay over and die and give up, that just makes them bigger bullies. So, we as Americans, we need to stand on our constitutional rights, on our rights as citizens and hang tough. This is a good country, we’ll prevail.”
His story quickly went viral after a rural Oregon man was slapped with fines for collecting rain water on his own property. But now, as of last Wednesday, Gary Harrington of Eagle Point, has been sentenced to 30 days in jail and more than $1,500 in fines, all because he had three reservoirs on his own property, that he used to collect and use rainwater.
Harrington says he plans to appeal the conviction in the Jackson County Circuit Court. That conviction revolved around nine misdemeanor charges that come from a 1925 law. That archaic ordinance bans what state water managers called “illegal reservoirs.”
“The government is bullying,” Harrington said in an CNS News, last Thursday.
“They’ve just gotten to be big bullies and if you just lay over and die and give up, that just makes them bigger bullies. So, we as Americans, we need to stand on our constitutional rights, on our rights as citizens and hang tough. This is a good country, we’ll prevail,” he added.
It all started back in 2002, when Harrington was attacked for having three “reservoirs” – ponds – on his large 170 acres of land.
But the state claims that collecting water requires a permit from the state.
One of these “reservoirs” – ponds – had been on his land for 37 years. He applied for the permit, which he saw as ridiculous. But the state first approved him in 2003, then denied him – reversing the previous decision.c
“They issued me my permits. I had my permits in hand and they retracted them just as arbitrarily, basically. They took them back and said ‘No, you can’t have them,’ so I’ve been fighting it ever since,” Harrington said.
“Way back in 1925 the city of Medford got a unique withdrawal that withdrew all — supposedly all — the water out of a single basin and supposedly for the benefit of the city of Medford,” Harrington added, giving some history on the bizarre law.
But he claims that there is no mention or prohibition of collecting rainwater.
“The withdrawal said the stream and its tributaries. It didn’t mention anything about rainwater and it didn’t mention anything about snow melt and it didn’t mention anything about diffused water, but yet now, they’re trying to expand that to include that rain water and they’re using me as the goat to do it.”
Tom Paul, the administrator of the Oregon Water Resources Department, says that the law doesn’t need to ban collecting rain water, because all of the water in the state is “public water,” which doesn’t actually mean the water belongs to the public, it means the government has claimed ownership of it.
“The law that he is actually violating is not the 1925 provision, but it’s Oregon law that says all of the water in the state of Oregon is public water and if you want to use that water, either to divert it or to store it, you have to acquire a water right from the state of Oregon before doing that activity.”
In 2007, things got even worse for Harrington. A Jackson County Circuit Court judge denied his permits. They ruled that he had “illegally withdrawn the water at issue from appropriation other than for the City of Medford.”
If Harrington is unsuccessful in his appeals, he will be reporting to the Jackson County Jail to serve his 30-day jail sentence.