79 votes

The government owns the rain and snow in Oregon!

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

(CNSNews.com) – 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.

Link: http://cnsnews.com/news/article/oregon-man-sentenced-30-days...

Best comment on the news piece from Clark:
Next time it snows tell the government to come get their water off of your driveway.

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water water water...

hmmmm I wonder if you can use those 4ft high swimming pools as water collection vessels.. I love being creative that way lol

Daughter of 1776 American Revolutionists

The legal debate about

whether/to what extent the guvmint can regulate
this sort of thing - or, to put it another way, what
limits can legitimately be put on private property
owners in the name of ensuring the well being and
continued existence of something like wildlife or
water which are generally held to belong to everyone...

centers around the "Public Trust Doctrine" - libertarians
have generally been critical of it, apparently.

Here are dueling legal papers on the subject from some
law professors at Lewis and Clark Law School, Portland,
Oregon (Go, Pioneers!) for those inclined to wade into
the subject further:



They own the deer

in PA, too. We just have to put up with THEIR deer eating our garden and landscaping. I have hit several with my car, more often, the hit ME but who has to pay for the damage? Not the owners of the deer! If a farmers cow gets loose and a car hits it who do you think is liable? This is just a bullying gang taking and taking and taking. Humans cannot be trusted with a monopoly of aggression against another group of people. It always devolves into the psycho evil turds trying to kill off everyone else.

That "they" is supposed to be "we"...

"The concept of ownership by the people and management by federal, state and provincial governments is known as the public trust doctrine of wildlife. It’s one of the reasons why this country enjoys the greatest diversity, quality, and quantity of game animals and other wildlife in the world. The idea dates back to when America defeated the English during the Revolutionary War. When wildlife was transferred from the King to the new government and thus to the people, it nullified the centuries-old European model where wildlife was privately owned and hunting was reserved for the upper class. Since then, a series of Supreme Court rulings have firmly established the public trust as it relates to this country’s wildlife."

from an article here:


So the wildlife is supposed to belong to everyone. Of course, if your property is being harmed
by wildlife you should have some latitude to deal with the problem. This is why shooting of bison
that wander out of Yellowstone has been allowed - they are supposedly a threat to ranchers'
cattle herds.

OTOH - the other "owners" of wildlife have a stake and say in what happens to it. Thus it would
be reasonable to say, for example, that you can't kill the last flock of passenger pigeons on the
planet even if they happen to be roosting noisily in your front yard and crapping on the driveway
and you find it really annoying...

"Public" ownership is a myth

"We" don't own what we don't control, control is the essence of ownership. How much property is public, yet the public best not be caught even getting close to it. When the state dictates what you do with your property, they own it. The king used to own the deer back in merry olde England as well.
Interesting how "Dick" Cheney was allowed to hunt "our" game without the proper licenses, even shot a man without any repercussions whatsoever.
There are rules for us, no rules for them.

I agree with you that

in a whole lot of cases the people don't have effective control over what is
supposed to be ours.

OTOH, saying that we don't have control of what's ours is different than saying there
is no such thing as something that belongs to society or humanity as a whole - that it's all
private property and that whoever owns the property can do what they want with it, including
the air,water and wildlife in/on/under it.

Take the example of people living in an area of limited water resources, say some
ranchers out west, who - recognizing the resource is limited, limit their consumption
so as not to deplete aquifers, thus ensuring that they can all continue to operate over
the long term.

But if the water belongs to whoever pumps it out from under their property, someone
with a tiny percentage of the land could start using it at an extreme rate, selling it or whatever,
and conceivably destroy the livelihood of the whole community. So, should that be legal/OK?
Prohibited/illegal? Or what?

I don't claim to have an exact answer, but I do think there are things that rightly belong
to everyone (or no one) and should be available for their use/enjoyment. I don't see how
a strictly libertarian approach can ensure this.

You don't get it

You think the state protects resources from rapacious depleters and polluters when they use the state to enable them to DO those things without repercussions. All property is private. Just currently the state controls it all and is de facto owner. This doesn't make it safe from depletion or pollution at all.It just means those who pay get to play. If someone pumps out water at an increased rate and causes others to not have water he should pay damages or make it right. Currently, he just gets the government to outlaw people catching rainwater and pays off pols to pass laws increasing taxes and laws on everyone else.

forget telling them to come get it....

send them a notice that you are going to send them a bill for storage fees.And then SEND THEM A BILL FOR STORAGE FEES!

All this ludicrous legislation & misuse of authority has to come to an end.If they are going to abuse US with it,then I say we throw it right back in their face.If they are going to throw us in jail for using what nature dropped on our property,then we can surely charge them storage fees for not getting their property off of my property.Send them notice that they have 12hrs to remove all water/snow after any rain/snow storm.Any rain/snow remaining after the 12hr period will be billed at a set fee per sq ft basis.

I'll bet they would get the point real quick if they start getting bills from multiple citizens!!!

Only connected

crony capitalist companies are allowed to do that, and that bill just gets passed on to the suckers who believe their government is them, etc.


Get your snow off my property!

When Fascism goes to sleep, it checks under the bed for Ron Paul!

Yeah, this headline is funny

Yeah, this headline is funny as hell. Bump!

The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire. - Heinlein

+1 for the comment

That's the best comment maybe on the whole internets.

Trouble in NH too

We are trying to stop this in NH.



Jane Aitken, 35-Year Veteran Teacher
Ron Paul 2008 Consultant
GOP Woman of the Year 2009
Founder NH Tea Party Coalition (NOT AFFILIATED WITH ANY FAKE 2009 GROUP)
Founder USPEINetwork @ Yahoo (Nat'l Edu Activism Group)
Board Coalition of NH Taxpayers

Not Rain Barrels?

When I read the header, and started in on the article, I was wondering why people were complaining about a few rain barrels, but when I got into it, it turns out that he's putting up dams and diverting creek water which is really nobody's property. I don't know how to solve the problem of running water across your property.

Any ideas?

Freedom is my Worship Word!

where did you read that?

where did you read that he is putting up dams and diverting creek water? The article i read and the video i watched didn't mention him doing that. it was about him collecting rain water and snow melt...

I use Blue Wave, but don't expect one of THEIR silly taglines.

If it is nobody's property,

If it is nobody's property, then also nobody can prevent him from diverting it. Because otherwise, you would automatically claim it is your property.

This is the case under natural law.
However, this doesn't mean there can't be any rules affecting the water. If the people in a city/county decide to give the authority to their city/county government, of course they can do it. It can even be delegated to the state, if the people of each county accept it.

But the government has no right at all to do anything about it, if the people didn't delegate it to the government!

In fact, this is the same with everything. Take for example violence and theft. Under natural law, you have a right to protect yourself against it. However, the natural law doesn't say: "There should be a government protecting everybody from it."
The people decided to give parts of the authority to protect oneself to the government. That is the only reason, government has authority to do something about it.

The whole problem today is government violating people's natural rights by doing things which were never delegated to it. If the people of a county didn't delegate something to their county government, the county government has no authority to delegate it any further. The same with the state and federal government.

The Rule of Law!

Luckily we live in a country where the rule of law, not the rule of men, prevails! If the law says it is illegal it must be wrong! After all, while we all know politicians are lying scumbags, the laws are THE LAW!

/end sarcasm

Seriously, where are all the 'Rule of Law' supporters on this one? Curious.

They are right here. The

They are right here. The whole idea of the rule of law is to prevent men from writing laws that violate higher law... as in, your rights and your liberty. The 4th Amendment points out your right to be free from unwarranted searches and seizures. But there are plenty of laws/regulations on the books at both the state and federal level that violate that higher law. The Constitution is the law of the land. Any laws written that violate it are laws that violate the rule of law.

Laws never write themselves

I think you missed the point.

"Best comment on the news

"Best comment on the news piece from Clark:
Next time it snows tell the government to come get their water off of your driveway."

Noooo, don't do that! Because they will. And they'll force you to pay 8 times the market rate to do the job. Then they'll go on strike until you agree to give them pension and lifetime benefits or the job won't get done - and if you do it yourself you're a "scab", and subject to arrest*. lol

Great comment. But as a libertarian that would be my first reaction to the suggestion.

* anyone remember the story a couple years back, about an elderly lady that was arrested for pruning "public" trees?

No legal declaration of Eminent Domain without Compensation

Any first year law student will tell you that a basic legal principle of eminent domain is providing compensation to property owners to make good the loss of property when it is appropriated. Therefore if the State of Oregon - or any locality - wants to declare water runoff to be their eminent domain, they must devise a system of compensating land owners based on the average amount of run-off generated by each property. Until they devise such a system, all waters are not eminent domain and therefore are not public property.

Can someone from Congressman Paul's Office contact this guy's lawyer, let them know this, and then ask them to hold a press conference explaining this to the general public?

This real issue here is the government assuming a claim on people's private real-estate above and beyond the claim of the people themselves. The idea of property taxes assumes that land owners do not have first right to their real-estate, but rather that the government does. This in effect makes people renters of their own property rather than true owners, and if a person cannot pay the property taxes the government will take the land from them in the tax's stead. The government treats the tax as a secured loan- as if the government was in fact the deed holder and the citizen was a renter.

This would be a great situation to fight this point on.

You should read up on water rights law

As a first year law student you should read up on water rights law before sounding off about the state applying eminent domain to something the property owner did not own. He owns his real property. But the water that falls on it or flows across or under it is a very separate piece of property.

Water rights are a BIG DEAL. Especially in the very dry western part of the US.

Oregon, like most states west of the Mississippi, has water rights based on priority of use. The first people who started using the water in the watershed obtained a homestead-like right to that water. That included all the water that ended up in the river or whatever, no matter what land it fell on or how it flowed. Those who made the second tap on the watershed are constrained in their water use to not interfere with the water use of the first comer, and so on with third, fourth, etc. water rights - until legislation precluded further tapping of the resource without interacting with regulators.

By interfering with the normal flow of water off his land by sequestering some of it into reservoirs without having obtained a right to do so he may be stealing the water from those downstream to whom it would normally flow. That's what the licensing is about: The state's bureau is (supposedly) arbitrating the use of additional water so new users can only take water in ways that do not violate the rights of those with a prior claim.

(Example: Irrigation spill gates along rivers with carefully set heights, so when the water is low ifthe first right owner opens his gate he gets his rated water if it's available, the second right owner gets not a drop unless the river is high enough that the first right owner is getting his rated flow, and so on for third and later.)

Diverting the rainwater from the neighbor downstream is like "diverting" the land of the neighbor next door by moving your fence twenty feet beyond your property line or "diverting" the car a neighbor is driving on an access easement across your land into your own garage.

If you want to gripe about how the government is administering the recognition of an often contested property right, first look into what the property right actually IS. Don't just assume it's attached to the ownership of the land the property happens to be sitting on at the moment.

= = = =
"Obama’s Economists: ‘Stimulus’ Has Cost $278,000 per Job."

That means: For each job "created or saved" about five were destroyed.

Read up on water rights

Michael, great points. I did some reading. I agree with the basic idea of prior-appropriation water rights. While I acknowledge the right of a State to declare all waters to be publicly owned, I don't think it would be a very competitive thing for a State to do. I also have a problem with declaring non-aquifer and non-tributary waters to be publicly owned. It's one thing if a tributary enter's one's property; it's quite another if an insignificant tributary originates on one's property or if a small pond exists there. Controlling those kinds of waters is the kind of thinking that leads to poor people being prosecuted for gathering rain water off of tin roofs.

It sounds like in the Oregon case the amount of water is insignificant and the tributaries being dammed originate on the property. It also sounds like denial of permit decision may have been made arbitrarily.

I do disagree with the FAA Act declaring, "The United States Government has exclusive sovereignty of airspace of the United States," and the Communications Act and Telecommunications Act granting the U.S. government control over communications. I realize these were all defense motivated, yet I see national defense as a thin justification for the government taking control of areas which are not granted Powers in the Constitution. I do agree with the Interstate Highway system being a facet of defense, and at least in the case of Highways there is the thin justification of postal roads combined with general Welfare.

"without having obtained a

"without having obtained a right to do"

Good post... but let's not misuse the term "right". Rights cannot be "obtained". They are inherent. Anything you must obtain from a government is a privilege, not a right.

I agree with you in general:

I agree with you in general: If the government can arbitrarily grant them or take them away, they're not rights. Unfortunately, "water rights" is a term of art so we're stuck with it.

As for "obtaining", sure you can. You can buy them from other people, like any other transferable property right. Or if you perfect a new one on your own under the then-existing law, the appropriate regulatory board acknowledges it, and the law doesn't let the bureaucrats void it later, it has become a right.

Note that by "right" here we're not talking "inherent right of all humanity", like the rights to life liberty or property (in general - as opposed to the ownership of a particular PIECE of property). We're talking owning a piece of property which has the form of a right to periodically obtain up to a defined amount of water under defined circumstances against the opposition of all comers. That fits one of the definitions of "right" in my book.

= = = =
"Obama’s Economists: ‘Stimulus’ Has Cost $278,000 per Job."

That means: For each job "created or saved" about five were destroyed.

When you graduate, you should

When you graduate, you should be my lawyer.

When I graduate I'll be about

When I graduate I'll be about 66 and the degree won't be law. B-)

I happen to know a bit about this because I went through it a couple years ago in Nevada. The property I bought and built on a decade back ended up with a registered "Homestead Water Right" - three acre-feet of well water per year.

After the completion of a water project in the watershed a couple local Indian tribes had to sue to make sure their senior water rights to certain river waters were recognized against the cities and states. Unfortunately, a clueless young lawyer at the Bureau of Indian Affairs, doing the legal work for them, named EVERY holder of ANY water right in the entire watershed (much of northeastern CA and northwestern NV) as defendants. This (improperly) included everybody with a homestead well.

Being the new guy in the state I wasn't going to assume things would be straightened out by the judge. I bought a few hours of time with one of the water-law specialists in Carson City to figure out my rights and what should be done. In the process he got this straightened out - for myself and many hundred others. I ended up learning a bit about western water law, dropping a couple grand, and made sure my little homestead would not become five acres of dust with an abandoned house on it.

I don't know how it works in Oregon. But in NV a homestead water right is sized for a pre-automobile family "house on the high desert". It's enough water for a big family, a cow, a couple horses (the "car" and "tractor"), a few other domestic animals, and a big enough irrigated vegetable garden to feed them (supplemented by some grazing of the high-desert plants). I couldn't irrigate and farm the whole five acres. But intensive greenhouse gardening could easily make us food independent on the water right we have.

As I read the Oregon water board's web site this guy would not have gotten in trouble if he'd put in a tank and filled it only with runoff from his roof, paved driveway, and other hard-paved surfaces. And he should (have) look(ed) into what other water rights he may have bought or inherited with his land. But assuming you own the water because it fell on land you own is asking for trouble.

= = = =
"Obama’s Economists: ‘Stimulus’ Has Cost $278,000 per Job."

That means: For each job "created or saved" about five were destroyed.

"As for "obtaining", sure you

"As for "obtaining", sure you can. You can buy them from other people, like any other transferable property right."

We may be arguing semantics here, but your right to your property never changes. You obtain property, and that falls under the right you have to your property that you have always had. It isn't really a new right. Just new property.

Two (related) meanings of the word "right".

"Right" is one of those words that have several meanings. In this case we're using a different one of the meanings than the one we usually discuss.

In both cases "right" refers to the moral and legal ability to make a particular class of behavioral choice and be able to carry it through despite the wishes of others who would block you.

Usually we're referring to "certain inalienable rights" that all people have, just by existing. In this case we're referring to a right to make choices about the disposition of a particular amount of water in a particular watershead.

This is not a right TO own property. In this case the right IS the property. You own the RIGHT to make choices about a certain AMOUNT of water (different water every year), just as you own a certain piece of land (the same land every year). You can sell the right. You can buy such a right. You once could create it just as you could create ownership of a piece of land, by claiming it and using it - which can only be done when it isn't already owned by someone else.

= = = =
"Obama’s Economists: ‘Stimulus’ Has Cost $278,000 per Job."

That means: For each job "created or saved" about five were destroyed.

First off I support his right

First off I support his right to collect as much rainwater/snow-melt as he can.
I read the story about this, and I thought the big issue is that they are accusing him of diverting water with dams into his reservoirs which they say is effecting the county reservoir not that he collects rainwater or snow melt.
He also pleaded guilty and served probation for this, and right after his probation ended they say he put the dams back up.
By placing dams is he really effecting the county reservoir or not is the main issue not collecting rainwater.
I support property rights but not sure I support something that potentially effects thousands maybe tens of thousands of peoples supply of water by using dams.