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03/07/2016 / By Tara Paras
Did you know that collecting rainwater on your own property could actually get you in jail?
Just look at the case of Gary Harrington of Eagle Point, Oregon. Harrington collected rainwater in three reservoirs on his property, and, well, the government didn’t like it. He is now facing a 30-day jail sentence and fines of more than $1,500.
In Oregon, all water is considered property of the state, whether it flows from the tap or falls from the sky. Collecting, storing and using rainwater is permitted, as long as you obtain a permit from the state – something which Harrington didn’t have. Harrington’s permits were revoked, though the reasons remain unclear.
In 2002, the state of Oregon informed Harrington that it had received “complaints” regarding three reservoirs located on his property. The reservoirs were used to collect and store rainwater and melted snow. One of the reservoirs has been on the property for nearly four decades.
When Harrington received notice from the Water Resources Department, he applied for the appropriate permits. The permits were granted in 2003, but were later revoked for unknown reasons.
“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,” Harrington told CNS News.
Harrington is planning to appeal the conviction, which consists of nine misdemeanor charges against him for having “three illegal reservoirs” on his property. He maintains that the charges are based on a 1925 law which says that the city of Medford owns all of the water in the Big Butte Creek watershed and its tributaries.
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. 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.”
Harrington argues that he is not diverting water from Big Butte Creek. Instead, he claims that the water he collects is “diffused water,” and therefore not subject to the 1925 law.
Harrington says that the government is bullying him: “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.”
Several states, such as Oregon and Colorado, have tough laws regarding the collection of rainwater. Other states also have laws requiring people to hook up to the energy grid, whether they like it or not. All this points to the fact that the government does not want its people to become self-reliant.
Citizens like Harrington should be supported, rather than opposed, for having the guts to stand up to authorities and their thirst for control. After all, we’re not called the “Land of the Free” for no reason.
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