Oregon Couple Told They Have No Water Rights, Forced to Destroy Their Own Pond
Collecting rainwater on your own property can now lead to jail time, as proven by a man from Oregon who was just sentenced to prison for doing just that. Who owns the rain? The US government, apparently, now. Not so long ago, it was common practice across much of the world to collect rainwater into man made wells on your property as a means of farming, irrigation, and having fresh clean water. It was just as common as canning your own food, having knowledge of at least some basic survival skills, and being self-sufficient.It wasn’t even that many generations ago that all of this was common practice — people born before WWII were pretty adept at these skills, as they were a necessity to survival. One of the main (and easiest) ways to ensure survival? Collecting rainwater on your own property. The practical uses for storing and collecting rainwater are numerous and many people across the world in rural areas still do it today for all of the reasons listed above. However, over the past few years, laws making the collection of rainwater illegal have been causing an uproar across the US.
Harrington stored and used water illegally by placing dams across channels on his property and preventing the flow of water out of these artificial reservoirs without obtaining a water right permit. The height of each dam varies; two dams stand about ten feet tall and the third stands about 20 feet tall. The total amount of water collected behind these dams totals about 40 acre feet; enough to fill almost 20 Olympic-sized swimming pools. These man-made reservoirs feature boat docks, boats, and were stocked by Harrington with trout and Bluegill for recreational fishing.The state first identified Harrington’s illegal water use more than ten years ago and initiated enforcement action to discontinue his illegal use of water. After numerous attempts by OWRD and the Watermaster to achieve voluntary compliance, the Department enlisted the assistance of the Oregon State Police in 2002. Citations were issued, and Harrington pleaded guilty to several violations. He was assessed a nominal fine and ordered to drain the three reservoirs, which he did. However, Harrington again closed the headgates in 2004 and refilled the reservoirs. As a result, OWRD and the Oregon State Police submitted reports to the Jackson County District Attorney’s Office alleging additional violations of Oregon water law. That office filed misdemeanor charges against Harrington, and in 2008 he pled guilty to one count. He was issued another fine, placed on one year probation, and was again ordered to drain the reservoirs.
Harrington has been repeatedly convicted over an 11-year span for illegally storing water on his Crowfoot Road property without a permit. He even pleaded guilty to similar charges in 2008, but he refuses to drain the ponds as ordered by the court, Mejia said.“Most people, when caught in a criminal act, at least promise not to do the act again,” Mejia said, adding Harrington was “willfully in violation of the orders of the court.”“You put yourself forward as to the public as some kind of a crusader for property rights,” Mejia said. “I’m not saying you’re a horrible, bad man. But I find you have been dishonest with the court. You have been nothing but willful.”