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 Man jailed for capturing rain
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H. Humbert
SFN Die Hard

USA
4574 Posts

Posted - 08/10/2012 :  13:57:38  Show Profile Send H. Humbert a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I have mixed feelings about this story. An Oregon man was sent to jail for collecting rainwater on his own property.
Harrington was found guilty two weeks ago of breaking a 1925 law for having, what state water managers called "three illegal reservoirs" on his property. He was convicted of nine misdemeanors, sentenced to 30 days in jail and fined over $1500 for collecting rainwater and snow runoff on his property.

According to Oregon water laws, all water is publicly owned.
Initially the state issued permits for reservoirs, but Harrington claims the state arbitrarily retracted them.

My first reaction was to side with Harrington. How can the government claim rights to water on private property? My parents own a rain barrel and collect rain water for use in their garden. The idea that government could come in and claim ownership of that water seems wrong. How much water on private property is the government entitled to? If it were technologically possible, could the government legally suck all of the moisture out of any parcel of land they chose? It seems draconian.

But upon reflection, I realize it's more complicated than that. Water is a publicly shared resource. We don't allow people to pollute the water table from private land, because they are affecting something that needs to be shared. And it sounds like Harrington was taking a good portion of water out of the system. This wasn't just a rain barrel. Harrington had entire reservoirs, which he presumably used to irrigate his farm. What if he decided to horde the water and use it during a drought while other farmers were forced to ration. Would that be fair?

Harrington sees himself as a man standing up to big government. What do you all think?


"A man is his own easiest dupe, for what he wishes to be true he generally believes to be true." --Demosthenes

"The first principle is that you must not fool yourself - and you are the easiest person to fool." --Richard P. Feynman

"Face facts with dignity." --found inside a fortune cookie

Edited by - H. Humbert on 08/10/2012 13:59:17

Hawks
SFN Regular

Canada
1383 Posts

Posted - 08/10/2012 :  16:04:44   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Hawks's Homepage Send Hawks a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I'm glad water is seen as a shared resource. I can easily envision what could happen if it was always allowed to stop water whenever it crossed your property. Streams would dry up, lakes would disappear.

METHINKS IT IS LIKE A WEASEL
It's a small, off-duty czechoslovakian traffic warden!
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Kil
Evil Skeptic

USA
13462 Posts

Posted - 08/10/2012 :  16:46:57   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Kil's Homepage  Send Kil an AOL message  Send Kil a Yahoo! Message Send Kil a Private Message  Reply with Quote
The State of Oregon v. Rain Man

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."

snip
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.

So let's see if I have this right. He's built dams on streams that probably don't originate on his property, unless his property is huge and extends up to the streams origins. He's created a playground for his friends and family, but in case of fire, well... He has to give some reason for the reservoirs (private lake's) being there.

Oh. Big government is out to take his boat dock away. And the fish he illegally stocked in his three lakes that exist behind dams he built without permits.

This is good:
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."

What I think is Harrington is full of crap. And his crap sells well on Fox, which is were he's is pushing it.

Uncertainty may make you uncomfortable. Certainty makes you ridiculous.

Why not question something for a change?

Genetic Literacy Project
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HalfMooner
Dingaling

Philippines
15831 Posts

Posted - 08/11/2012 :  04:13:35   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send HalfMooner a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Battles over water are a very big thing in the US West, and always have been. No law or settlement ever makes everyone happy.

The Oregon Water Rights Law (pdf file) may be a bit unusual, but that law existed since 1925, well before Harrington was born. It's one way to prevent total anarchy in water disputes.

The essential part of the Oregon law is that whoever first got water rights is the last person whose water is shut off due to drought.

When Harrington impounds water in ponds, that much water no longer flows downstream to the next landholder in the chain. That, I think, is the basic fact lying behind the fact that Harrington is being prosecuted. In this case, it seems the City of Medford has the original water rights in the watershed where Harrington owns land. Harrington, under Oregon's law, is holding back Medford's water, not his own.

I think Harrington's "oath of office" defense sounds like something he'd been told by militia or "sovereign citizen" types. Relying upon such imaginative "legal" advice is always likely to see a person ending up in the pokey. Just ask Kent Hovind.

Biology is just physics that has begun to smell bad.” —HalfMooner
Here's a link to Moonscape News, and one to its Archive.
Edited by - HalfMooner on 08/11/2012 06:44:15
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On fire for Christ
SFN Regular

Saudi Arabia
1265 Posts

Posted - 08/11/2012 :  04:35:07   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send On fire for Christ a Private Message  Reply with Quote
seems like it's the wrong question. He's not been jailed for collecting rainwater he's been jailed for constructing an unauthorised reservoir. This is more a topic about planning permission required on your own property that who owns the water. If he'd collected the same amount of water into barrels there wouldn't be a problem.

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HalfMooner
Dingaling

Philippines
15831 Posts

Posted - 08/11/2012 :  05:05:33   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send HalfMooner a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by On fire for Christ

seems like it's the wrong question. He's not been jailed for collecting rainwater he's been jailed for constructing an unauthorised reservoir. This is more a topic about planning permission required on your own property that who owns the water. If he'd collected the same amount of water into barrels there wouldn't be a problem.
I think it's both. Not only does the Oregon water authority determine who can impound water, and when they can do it, but also how they can do so. The dams themselves can be a flooding hazard to people an properly downstream, so it's natural that someone be in charge of regulating their design and construction. In this case, that someone seems to be the water authority.

On another note, Harrington's assertion that he has made his ponds (or small lakes) available for firefighting use is likely a non-issue. Though I lived at the time in California instead of Oregon, I had a swimming pool at a property I once owned in Half Moon Bay. I was told by the Half Moon Bay Fire Department that my pool would be an emergency source of water for firefighting. I doubt Harrington had any choice as to his ponds being available to firefighters.

Biology is just physics that has begun to smell bad.” —HalfMooner
Here's a link to Moonscape News, and one to its Archive.
Edited by - HalfMooner on 08/11/2012 05:15:42
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Kil
Evil Skeptic

USA
13462 Posts

Posted - 08/11/2012 :  07:25:15   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Kil's Homepage  Send Kil an AOL message  Send Kil a Yahoo! Message Send Kil a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by On fire for Christ

seems like it's the wrong question. He's not been jailed for collecting rainwater he's been jailed for constructing an unauthorised reservoir. This is more a topic about planning permission required on your own property that who owns the water. If he'd collected the same amount of water into barrels there wouldn't be a problem.
Nope. He illegally constructed dams on streams. Did those streams originate on his property? In other words, it seems unlikely that all of the water comes from his own property. It sounds like he considers a stream running through his property as his. Otherwise, why would he talk about snowpack, which feeds streams? Does he own the mountain top? (He might. But that's not mentioned in any of the articles, even by him.) If not, he is claiming water that doesn't belong to him anymore than it belongs to the next property the stream runs through.

I'm going to go out on a very short limb here and once again suggest that he has built himself his own personal paradise, at the detriment of others, and very much against the law, and intends to keep it. Hell! Even stocking his lakes with fish was done illegally.

Uncertainty may make you uncomfortable. Certainty makes you ridiculous.

Why not question something for a change?

Genetic Literacy Project
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On fire for Christ
SFN Regular

Saudi Arabia
1265 Posts

Posted - 08/11/2012 :  07:55:25   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send On fire for Christ a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Precisely. The ownership of rainwater is not even in question, it's to do with illegal construction projects. The title of the article is misleading.

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Valiant Dancer
Forum Goalie

USA
4826 Posts

Posted - 08/14/2012 :  07:11:39   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Valiant Dancer's Homepage Send Valiant Dancer a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by On fire for Christ

seems like it's the wrong question. He's not been jailed for collecting rainwater he's been jailed for constructing an unauthorised reservoir. This is more a topic about planning permission required on your own property that who owns the water. If he'd collected the same amount of water into barrels there wouldn't be a problem.


I gotta agree with OFfC here.

This isn't about collecting rainwater from finite point sources on the property. (I.E. collection from a roof or driveway into a cistern or rain barrel)

This is about making major construction changes to natural water sources and impeding the flow of natural streams without a permit or obtaining the proper building permits and introducing non-native species into the ecosystem of the streams (i.e. making a dam over a river and then stocking it with Asian Carp or Zebra Mussels). If the stream begun and ended on this property, there would not be this issue. However, obviously he has dammed up streams that either do not start or do not end on his property. This deprives this downstream neighbors from benefit from the stream. He could divert some of the water to his crops legally for irrigation, but he's not doing that.

He is also creating a flooding hazard. He build the dams without review and without permission. Should there be a monsoon rain or a year with well above average rainfall, his little dams could be overtopped, undercut, and cause a surge flood when the dam fails vastly increasing the risk to downstream neighbors.

He doesn't want to play by the rules everyone else has to and claims discrimination when he doesn't get it his way.

Just like zealots who don't get special status to prostelyze in schools claiming religious discrimination.

Cthulhu/Asmodeus when you're tired of voting for the lesser of two evils

Brother Cutlass of Reasoned Discussion
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ThorGoLucky
Snuggle Wolf

USA
1457 Posts

Posted - 08/14/2012 :  15:42:10   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit ThorGoLucky's Homepage Send ThorGoLucky a Private Message  Reply with Quote
If a neighbor built a giant mosquito breeding ground, I'd be annoyed.
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H. Humbert
SFN Die Hard

USA
4574 Posts

Posted - 08/14/2012 :  17:07:21   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send H. Humbert a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by HalfMooner
I think Harrington's "oath of office" defense sounds like something he'd been told by militia or "sovereign citizen" types. Relying upon such imaginative "legal" advice is always likely to see a person ending up in the pokey. Just ask Kent Hovind.
Yeah, anyone who thinks they can avoid following the law by denying the government's "authority" to enforce the law usually learns their lesson the hard way.

I didn't realize the guy was such a kook.


"A man is his own easiest dupe, for what he wishes to be true he generally believes to be true." --Demosthenes

"The first principle is that you must not fool yourself - and you are the easiest person to fool." --Richard P. Feynman

"Face facts with dignity." --found inside a fortune cookie
Edited by - H. Humbert on 08/14/2012 17:07:41
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