a water issue

blaketayloreJuly 28, 2012

the "officials" tear up gardens and/or some "officials" don't let us collect the rainwater off our roof from our houses. Is this OKAY with Americans? Over the past few years I have been coming across an alarmingly increasing amount of articles of people who were harvesting the rain off their own roof tops being hauled of to jail!

Oregon Man Sentenced to 30 Days in Jail -- for Collecting Rainwater on His Property

By Kendra Alleyne

July 26, 2012

A rural Oregon man was sentenced Wednesday to 30 days in jail and over $1,500 in fines because he had three reservoirs on his property to collect and use rainwater.

Gary Harrington of Eagle Point, Ore., says he plans to appeal his conviction in Jackson County (Ore.) Circuit Court on nine misdemeanor charges under a 1925 law for having what state water managers called "three illegal reservoirs" on his property � and for filling the reservoirs with rainwater and snow runoff.

"The government is bullying," Harrington told CNSNews.com in an interview 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 said.

The court has given Harrington two weeks to report to the Jackson County Jail to begin serving his sentence.

Harrington said the case first began in 2002, when state water managers told him there were complaints about the three "reservoirs" � ponds � on his more than 170 acres of land.

According to Oregon water laws, all water is publicly owned. Therefore, anyone who wants to store any type of water on their property must first obtain a permit from state water managers.

Harrington said he applied for three permits to legally house reservoirs for storm and snow water runoff on his property. One of the "reservoirs" had been on his property for 37 years, he said.

Though the state Water Resources Department initially approved his permits in 2003, the state � and a state court -- ultimately reversed the 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," Harrington told CNSNews.com.

The case, he said, is centered on a 1925 law which states that the city of Medford holds exclusive rights to "all core sources of water" in the Big Butte Creek watershed and its tributaries.

"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 told CNSNews.com.

Harrington told CNSNews.com, however, that the 1925 law doesn�t mention anything about colleting rainwater or snow melt -- and he believes that he has been falsely accused.

"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

But Tom Paul, administrator of the Oregon Water Resources Department, claims that Harrington has been violating the state�s water use law by diverting water from streams running into the Big Butte River.

"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," Paul told CNSNews.com.

Yet Paul admitted the 1925 law does apply because, he said, Harrington constructed dams to block a tributary to the Big Butte, which Medford uses for its water supply.

"There are dams across channels, water channels where the water would normally flow if it were not for the dam and so those dams are stopping the water from flowing in the channel and storing it- holding it so it cannot flow downstream," Paul told CNSNews.com.

Harrington, however, argued in court that that he is not diverting water from Big Butte Creek, but the dams capturing the rainwater and snow runoff � or "diffused water" � are on his own property and that therefore the runoff does not fall under the jurisdiction of the state water managers, nor does it not violate the 1925 act.

In 2007, a Jackson County Circuit Court judge denied Harrington�s permits and found that he had illegally "withdrawn the water at issue from appropriation other than for the City of Medford."

According to Paul, Harrington entered a guilty plea at the time, received three years probation and was ordered to open up the water gates.

"A very short period of time following the expiration of his probation, he once again closed the gates and re-filled the reservoirs," Paul told CNSNews.com. "So, this has been going on for some time and I think frankly the court felt that Mr. Harrington was not getting the message and decided that they�d already given him probation once and required him to open the gates and he refilled his reservoirs and it was business as usual for him, so I think the court wanted -- it felt it needed -- to give a stiffer penalty to get Mr. Harrington�s attention."

In two weeks, if unsuccessful in his appeals, Harrington told CNSNews.com that he will report to the Jackson County Jail to serve his sentence.

"I follow the rules. If I�m mandated to report, I�m going to report. Of course, I�m going to do what it takes in the meantime to prevent that, but if I�m not successful, I�ll be there," Harrington said.

But Harrington also said that he will never stop fighting the government on this issue.

"When something is wrong, you just, as an American citizen, you have to put your foot down and say, �This is wrong; you just can�t take away anymore of my rights and from here on in, I�m going to fight it."

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Although this isn't my intention, I am probably going to come across as curmudgeonly with this response, but I'm a bit baffled.

Blake - This is the second article you've posted here on the New England forum that has nothing to do with New England. The one about the vegetable garden ban was from Ontario which isn't even the same country. Perhaps it would have been better posted in the vegetable growing forum. I would have been fine with it if it had been a similar article about a New England town.

This one is from Oregon. Western water rights have nothing to do with the way water is regulated in this part of the country. In general I find Western water rights baffling. They have to do with the history of the specific regions and the different climate in that part of the country.

At least here in NH, outside of HOA regulations in "planned communities" and condo associations (which the homeowners choose to buy into), there isn't a lot of intrusive regulation. I don't know of examples of vegetable garden bans, and what regulation of reservoirs there is has to do with safety, not water rights. A few years ago a dam let go in a local community and several people drowned and there was a huge amount of damage to property, both public and private. As far as that goes, I am all in favor of government oversight of dams and reservoirs on private land.

I'll now climb off my soap box. :>)

    Bookmark   July 28, 2012 at 9:16AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
prairiemoon2 z6 MA

I guess I have a different perspective Babs. I really appreciated reading about the problems in the West with water rights. Something I was unaware of. Yes, it's not really about our little corner of the world, but I still find it pretty surprising that these issues are happening anywhere in the country. I also liked the article on front yard gardens.

So, on this forum, where there is low traffic so much of the time, I really wouldn't want to discourage anyone from posting about whatever they want to talk about. People who have no interest in that thread, can just ignore it.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2012 at 5:40AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I don't mind reading about interesting happenings in other parts of the country, but I DO think the OP is being just a bit inflammatory - is there really an 'alarming increase' in the number of people being sent to jail for harvesting rainwater, or is this just an example of anti-government sentiment seizing on - and over-simplifying - any situation that suits its purpose?

This article is so poorly written that I'm not sure if the fellow actually built dams or just diverted rainwater - halfway through it states that he dammed tributaries. The fact that this is buried in the article makes me suspicious that the author (not our forum poster) had an ax to grind and was willing to distort the situation for her own purposes.

Certainly conditions in parts of Oregon demand control over the water supply, and I can't get worked up about this situation. The homeowner seems to be an extremist who thinks he should be allowed to do whatever he likes on his property - he invokes his rights as an American citizen, but in fact he sounds a bit like an idiot.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2012 at 4:34PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
prairiemoon2 z6 MA

That's a good point did, you are right, it wasn't clear at all what the landowner was doing that was at the root of the conflict. Good catch!

    Bookmark   July 29, 2012 at 5:52PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
runktrun(z7a MA)

In general I think there is a lot of anger/angst being spewed, politics,environment,social issues, etc. That anger gets all of our attention via the media/internet, have you ever read or heard someone espousing the glass half full side of politics, environment, or social issues? Or more to the point have you ever read a thread on GW that originated about a wonderful neighbor who did nice things?
But to be honest I visit GW to escape the anger/angst I can't avoid in my every day life, for this reason I was HIGHLY disappointed to see adds for Senator Scott Brown on GW today :(
I didn't bother the read the vegetable garden ban post past the first paragraph because Garden Rant has been covering this issue in great detail for over a year. The water piece seemed hyperbolic from the get go so I didn't get past the first few lines. Nan you should be commended for reading the entire rant.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2012 at 7:17PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
tree_oracle(z6b MA)

Go Scott! Back to your teepee, Pocahontas!

    Bookmark   July 29, 2012 at 7:53PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Hello nhbabs,
I suppose if we all thought a like, the world would be a very dull place. But can we still not be respectful to each other in our differences? It is a simple fact that humans view, and interpret things differently; and that everyone has certain triggers that upset them that would not upset another. Obviously something about my last post upset or rubbed you the wrong way. Obviously we view the appropriateness of my post quite differently. You write you were a "bit baffled". Please know that I am a "bit baffled" by your response to my post. I think it's important to honor people's choices to share what they want. You had the freedom, the privacy, and the choice to skip to another post that you found more to your liking. So I am confused as to why you didn't move on to read a post that made you feel better or had more interest in. Why didn't you choose to ignore my post? Did you feel I harming anyone on this forum, or the forum itself by sharing information that I thought someone might be interested in knowing? It is a subject I have an interest in as a gardener; and I know there are people on this forum who also have an interest in it as well. Obviously, you have informed me that you are not one of them.

You suggested that my last post would have been better posted in the vegetable growing forum. Unless I missed something the , "New England Gardening" forum is not limited to just flower gardening from the many posts that I have read over the years. My perspective is that gardening is all gardening: flowers, vegetables, herbs, fruits, as well all related subjects, experiences, and issues of concern to gardening. And I think concerns about the ability to grow our food and harvest our water falls under "gardening" issues.

I have shared posts before about people being harassed in America with being forced to tear up their vegetables gardens as well as people being fined or jailed for harvesting rainwater off their own roofs. As an avid reader, I have noticed that it appears that more and more of theses articles are no longer limited to America, but now theses issues are also happening in England and Canada as well. This is something that I am paying attention to. How lucky for you that you feel so secure in your neck of the woods. I can assure you New Englanders have had their toes stepped on with water issues by local authorities, and it is a growing concern. And with the fact that food and water is becoming a huge issue globally , not just in America, I would think every gardener would have an interest in how issues like these can or will affect them.
What happens in other parts of the country, in other parts of the world can and do affect New England in my humble opinion.

As a New England Gardener, living and gardening in New England, I interpret the New England Gardening Forum to be a place to post what I like to share with others on issues that I feel, in one way or some level, does, may, or could affect my gardening options. I do believe the right to grow food, and the right to harvest water falls in my definition of what is appropriate to post here. You may disagree with my interpretation. You may disagree with my concerns. You may wish I would post elsewhere concerning these very real issues. Should that stop me from posting yet another article that I think would interest another gardener whether they be from New England or not? But I am a New England Gardener just as you are, so as long as we harm none I think we both can post our concerns, our experiences without being baffled, or judgmental of the other.


    Bookmark   July 29, 2012 at 8:05PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
runktrun(z7a MA)

Tree Oracle,
What exactly do you mean by Go Scott! Back to your teepee, Pocahontas!? Who are you directing that extremely offensive Back to your teepee, Pocahontas comment to?

    Bookmark   July 29, 2012 at 8:38PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
molie(z6 CT)

Okay, I'll jump in --- but not too deeply.

I agree with Blake that those of us on the forum are "free" to post whatever we want on whatever interests us about NE gardening. Honestly, I don't read everything here --- just subject lines that pique my curiosity about a topic that interests me. So when I read the subject heading the first time, I figured this would be about the drier areas in Blake's garden, or flooding problems, water seepage, maybe even irrigation techniques.

As I read the first few paragraphs, I got the impression that this was posted because Blake was concerned that the rights of Americans are being infringed upon by our government. Oy vey! I stopped reading.

It wasn't until today when I saw others had written follow-up posts, that I actually read the whole posting and, of course, all the follow-ups. I agree with DtD about the poor quality of this article (from which local newspaper?) --- with Nhbabs that government oversight of dams and reservoirs on private land is important for public safety --- with Runktrun that angst/anger in the media garnishes attention.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2012 at 8:04AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I don't mind these posts that aren't directly New England but are garden-related. I do know that arguing about politics online never changes anybody's mind, so I don't bother with that anymore. It ends up being pages and pages and pages and pages of people talking with nobody conceding any good points for the other side or recognizing issues with a particular position, etc. But blake didn't argue politics. She just posted an article with information. I see these responses as not reaching the level of arguing about politics, either. It's been for the most part a good and polite conversation. I like being aware of what's happening to other gardeners so I can better recognize it if that type of attitude or legislation pops up in my neck of the woods. The lady that was fined for planting tomatoes in her front yard last year ended up getting not just online support, but financing for her battle, and communication via the internet helps that.

I see it as information and not as an off-topic political post. Perhaps I see it that way because I admit freely to being of a small-government political bent, so I appreciate the information!

I'd love to see more posts about what difficulties or triumphs gardeners in other areas experience because it does add to my arsenal of knowledge. I think posters on GW are responsible for 90% of what I know about gardening! THANK YOU ALL!

P.S. nhbabs, I just found that dam info online, and am surprised it was right around the corner from me. How sad that the one lady died. A tragedy for sure.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2012 at 10:33AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Steve Massachusetts Zone 5b


You are free to post your nut-job opinions all over the Internet, but that last comment "Inshallah" is racist, discriminatory and in my opinion constitutes hate speech. You don't have the right to engage in that kind of comment. If you had any respect or dignity you would apologize to this forum. I'm not holding my breath.


    Bookmark   July 30, 2012 at 11:21PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
terrene(5b MA)

It's 3:30 in the morning, can't sleep, and this is a really weird thread!

I am a political moderate, and believe that there is a balance between regulation and freedom from government interference. Not an easy balance to achieve, apparently, since many people scream about regulation and taxes, UNTIL they personally need government support, then they scream about how incompetent it is if they don't get it. Oh well.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2012 at 3:43AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
tree_oracle(z6b MA)

"Government does not solve problems; it subsidizes them"

"Man is not free unless government is limited"

"Government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem"

-- Ronald Reagan

Many of the programs created by the FDR administration were meant to be short-term measures to keep people on their feet when they had fallen on tough times. They were not meant to be lifelong support from the government. To provide any of this tax money for life to people that are in this country illegally is beyond outrageous.

Anyone who can't see the massive increase in government regulation in my lifetime (I'm 50) is either blind or ignorant. We are turning into the country that the Founding Fathers despised so much.

I find the original post to be very pertinent to this area because no where in the US is government regulation more invasive than the West Coast and Northeastern US. If this guy built essentially a dam and reservoir that constituted a threat to others if it broke then yes they should crack down on him. If however the only threat was to flood his 170 acres of property and cause only harm to himself then they have no business regulating anything. It's his property. He should be able to do what he want to do on it.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2012 at 7:00AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Steve Massachusetts Zone 5b


You are way off base. I disagree with pretty much everything you've said, and I'm neither ignorant nor blind. Your point of view is yours and to characterize those who disagree with you as ignorant is self-damning.

The OP used a right wing survivalist web site that pretty much ignores the truth in order to promulgate an extremist anti-government position. IMO, these people are dangerous, not just liars.

If you went to the Oregon.gov web site you would see that this guy did build damns on canals across his property in order to create a reservoir for recreational fishing. In fact there were boats and a dock on this reservoir. The link is below.

The point is that the extreme anti-government crazies want you to believe that the evil government is taking away your freedom. They will play fast and loose with the truth in order to push that agenda.

Frankly, I want the government to regulate scarce resources that are essential to sustain life. I don't want them to tell me who I can marry. YMMV.


Here is a link that might be useful: Oregon Water Resources Department

    Bookmark   July 31, 2012 at 7:45AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
molie(z6 CT)

Steve, interesting link to the Oregon Water Resources Dept., the state's water use regulations, and the Oregon Water Resource Department's judgment against this individual. The fact that this was an ongoing issue for many years, that the dams were so tall, that the resulting lakes/ponds were stocked with fish and used for recreational boating presents a different purpose than just irrigating his land.

Even though a person owns their land, people should know the regulations for where they live. When we wanted to add on to our house, the architect told us his first step would be to explore all the rules and required permits in our town before drawing up plans or beginning any work. Yes, it was our land, but we lived in a town with certain zoning rules and we had to abide by them.

I think it's important to investigate all sides of an issue (like what can be built on the land or done with the water). The internet provides so many resources for those who are concerned about issues, but it's important to always note the URL of a posting site when looking at opposing viewpoints. That was my question with the original posted article ---- not only its clarity but also its source.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2012 at 8:31AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
runktrun(z7a MA)

Tree Oracle,

I was going to wait 48 hours before I wrote this but it is likely this thread will be removed by GW before much longer.

Your words Go Scott! Back to your teepee, Pocahontas! really upset me as a matter of fact I could think of little else for most of yesterday. Frankly like most people I have enough stress in my life that I intentionally seek out certain tools exercise, my grandson, a glass of wine, and Garden Web to help me escape those stresses so believe me when I say I am not looking to ignite an already combustible discussion. But I consider what you said Go Scott! Back to your teepee, Pocahontas! to be both racist and sexist. I don't care whether anyone else on the forum agrees with me or not that is not the point what you wrote was highly offensive to me. About mid-day yesterday I asked myself if I was standing next to you at a water cooler, bellied up to a bar, or in my living room, would I call you out about the offensiveness of your comment the answer was yes, but I also doubted you would have said such a thing to my face. I am not going to ask you for an apology I suppose if you were going to offer one you would have responded to my post questioning your comment. I will how ever ask that you tone it down while on this GARDENING forum and that you might even go as far as making a promise to yourself that should you want to discuss your political opinions on the internet you will do so without hiding behind a pseudonym. Katy Guerin

    Bookmark   July 31, 2012 at 9:35AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

So...anywho...about water...

aren't we all so glad we got some rain this past week? What a blessing! It's not political, it's not right or left, it's not regulated when it falls from the sky, it's not taxed, it's just nice water, and we all love it!

Back to gardening, what a nice change to have some rain recently. My garden really needed it!

    Bookmark   July 31, 2012 at 10:42AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Hello All,

I agree, Deanna, water is wonderful. And I am so glad to have the rain we did as it did quench the thirst of my gardens. I can't believe tomorrow is August first. This is a first for me as I have already managed to can 24 pints of my own green beans! And all that beautiful rain falling on my gardens seem to have them working over time. It seems that every other day or so I can pick enough green beans in one evening to can seven pints. I don't know how long this luxurious bounty will last, but if it does continue much longer, I might be trading string beans for flowers! And of course, for those who do not like green beans, I also have a bumper crop of blueberries that I might be able to trade!

I send good thoughts that we all have our own unique bountiful, and fun harvest. What a great time in the calendar year to be a New England gardener!

Happy August!

    Bookmark   July 31, 2012 at 12:43PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
molie(z6 CT)

Wow --- 24 pints of green beans and blueberries galore! How wonderful!

When I was a little girl, there was about an acre of blueberries growing wild on the hills behind our houses. I lived on Main Street in Wallingford, CT, so that tells you how long ago this was!

In blueberry season, all the moms in the neighborhood would meet at the bushes with pots, pans, buckets and all their kids. We'd spend the morning picking blueberries. I can still see those bushes which were too tall to see over and so wide around that we kids would play "hide and go seek" in them and have wicked blueberry fights. Great times! Everyone would go home covered in blue --- clothes, fingers and mouths. Of course, the best part followed --- the baking and the jellies and preserves we put away down in the basement.


    Bookmark   July 31, 2012 at 3:03PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
claireplymouth z6b coastal MA

Oh, Molie, I remember picking blueberries as a kid in the summer! I hated it! The mosquitoes were awful - that must have been before DEET and all the other repellents - and the mosquitoes just loved me.

I did love my mothers jams and jellies and blueberry cake with lemon sauce and blueberry pancakes though.


    Bookmark   July 31, 2012 at 5:33PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Climbing hydrangea question
Green gardener here. This is kind of a silly question...
c_ coy 7aMA
What are your favorite fruit/vegetable varieties for New England?
I'm curious as to which varieties of each fruit and...
Bristol County Conservation District 2014 Plant Sale
Now is the time the Massachusetts County Conservation...
The Great Backyard Bird Count Feb 13-16, 2015
The Great Backyard Bird Count Feb 13-16, 2015 About Claire...
claireplymouth z6b coastal MA
Deer resistant evergreen shrub
Was wondering if you have any suggestions for an evergreen...
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™