A resident of Oregon blatantly collected rainwater in his governmnent-authorized ponds. For this, he was sentened to 30 days in jail and fined $1,500. He must also pay to remove the ponds.
The media are all over this one. This is a great human interest news story.
What has received little attention is the fact that this law has been on the books since 1925. It’s a city law. This is not a case of government out of control. This is a case of voters whose great-great grandparents put government in control.
“The government is bullying,” the convicted criminal said. Yes, it is. What else is new?
“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.
This is as optimistic today as it would have been in 1925. And just as naive, politically speaking.
Harrington has resisted this since 2002. The man has stamina.
In Oregon, all water is publicly owned. This has been true since 1925. So, water users must apply for a permit from state water managers.
Harrington says he applied. One of the ponds had been on his property for 37 years. (It is not clear if this was 347 years in 2002 or 37 years in 2012.)
The state Water Resources Department initially approved his permits in 2003. But later a state court reversed this.
“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.”
He bases his case on this: the 1925 law does not mention rainwater or snow melt. It referred to streams.
An Oregon official says it’s not the 1925 law that is at stake here. It’s the state law governing streams.
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.
Harrington pleaded guilty before. That’s why he is in trouble now.
The moral of the story is unclear, other than this: bog government in the USA did not begin with the New Deal. It began a lot earlier.