When it rains, it pours. A man in Oregon has been sentenced to 30 days in jail for collecting rainwater on his property. The government determined he had “illegal reservoirs.”
Guy Harrington of rural Eagle Point, Ore., collects rainwater and snow runoff in three locations on his property. Harrington believes a 1925 law is behind the ruckus. The law established that the city of Medford would hold the rights to all the sources of water in the Big Butte Creek watershed and tributaries.
But Harrington thinks the courts are taking the law of out context.
“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,” argued Harrington.
Harrington has three ponds on his 170 acres. According to Oregon laws, one must obtain a permit in order to have a reservoir. Harrington applied for permits and was granted permits in 2003, but a State court reversed that decision.
“They issued me my permits. I had my permits in hand and they retracted them just arbitrarily, basically. They took them back and said ‘No, you can’t have them,’ so I’ve been fighting it ever since,” said Harrington.
The real issue is this: Is the water that Harrington collects public water? Oregon says “yes.” The State believes Harrington is diverting and damming water that would otherwise run into public streams.
But Harrington thinks it is just another example of government overstepping its bounds.
“The government is bullying,” he said. “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.”