Water Misuse Sentence Begins

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MEDFORD, Ore. – An Eagle Point man is now behind bars after building three illegal reservoirs on property he on his former property to store rain water and snow melt. The legal problem is that Gary Harrington has been using those ponds to collect rainfall and snow melt.

Harrington reported to Jackson County Jail this morning, to serve his 30 day sentence. He was sentenced last month after being convicted of nine charges all related to the misuse of water.

According to Oregon law, all water, including rain water and snow melt, are public. Anyone wanting to collect it for personal use must have a water rights permit. Harrington cannot get that permit because the water in his ponds would go to Big Butte Creek.

The Oregon Water Resources Department says, according to a 1920s state law, water rights to Big Butte Creek can only be granted to the city of Medford, but Harrington and his supporters believe his right is being taken away. More than fifty supporters gathered in front of the Jackson County Jail, supporting Harrington, and what they believe is a constitutional right.

The land changed hands right before Harrington’s sentence. He has also been ordered to pay $1,500 in fines and drain the ponds, which are used by ODF and other agencies to fight fires. His legal adviser says they will fight the issue all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

A website that supports Harrington has posted a letter from the Butte Falls Fire Department, which says the Harrington ponds are a firefighting asset. In a letter to Judge Tim Gerking, Butte Falls Fire Chief Jeff Gorman says firefighters can dip helicopter buckets and pump water from the pond to use on wildfires. He says there are no other similar water sources for miles. Gorman asks that authorities do not drain the ponds, so that they can continue to be used.

Steven Sandberg contributed to this report.


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  1. Al Mialkovsky says:

    Just horrible how big brother worries about their power more than what is right and what makes sense. I live close to this property and it’d be fantastic if those fire fighting helicoptors could acess his water when it’s such dry land around their now.

    1. molly browndorf says:

      And just as horrible is your disrespectful picture… Funny how you notice one thing…and not the other.

  2. Keith McNiel says:

    I beleive that if you do studies into the treaty that the US has with NATO, once the water is collecteted and contained even if it is pumped out of the ground it then becomes the property of NATO. In that case the state of oregon stole the water from NATO.

  3. Haven Yates says:

    From what I understand, the Medford Water Commission has no issue with Gary’s rainwater collection, and the Oregon Water Resources Department is representing them without their participation. Why isn’t the “injured party” representing themselves?

    As to the issue of fire suppression, the ponds are not only useful in theory, but to my understanding have been used by agencies on three separate occasions for fire suppression.

  4. BRIAN B. SAYLOR says:

    The “4th BRANCH of Government” (the Jury) needs to see that in A SPECIFIC TRIAL when a SPECIFIC government demand is being applied EITHER inappropriately OR Unconstitutionally; the Jury has the DUTY, to make a NON-PRECEDENT setting decision to find that defendant, IN THIS CASE, NOT GUILTY. A similar case brought before a court AFTER this decision is NOT SUBJECT to this decision. The NEW CASE MUST BE TRIED ON IT’S OWN MERITS. This is why it is a NON-PRECEDENT setting decision. And, this becomes ONLY the DEFENDANTS exception to the rule. Re-trial is NOT allowed because of DOUBLE JEOPARDY.

    Section 16. … In all criminal cases whatever, the jury shall have the right to determine the law, and the facts under the direction of the Court as to the law, and the right of new trial, as in civil cases.

    The Jury DUTIES of the people have become so blurred it’s no wonder people feel they’re just a rubber stamp for the powers that be. BUT, when, in a blue moon, a case comes up that has special circumstances for a Jury to pay attention to, we throw up our collective hands in frustration not realizing that we HAVE A SOLUTION. AND, if you have to ASK, “gee do “i” HAVE the right to do that?” REMEMBER, you don’t need to ASK permission when you ARE SUPPOSED TO know this already. Really?
    Yes, the Courts have ruled Juries need to know this information BEFORE they come to serve in a courtroom.
    And, Prosecutors probably feel that a Jury is a dreadfully unpredictable legal inconvenience to their case; so, they don’t like this either.
    OK, let’s just have the courts decree summary judgments and dispense with the Jury altogether … so far it looks to me that THIS will be our LEGACY to the generations AFTER us …

  5. Mark Fulton says:

    But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. (Matthew 5:44, 45 NIV)

    Not knowing all the facts I hesitate to comment, but it make sense to me that for the good of “ALL” the ponds make sense! I pray that not greed or pride stand in the way of Comman Sense!
    Mark Fulton…<

  6. Erin Bishop says:

    Collecting WATER is a jailable offense? That’s idiotic. Oregon’s number one cash crop is marijuana, Medford is called METHFord. Hasn’t anyone in lawenforcement in Jackson county got anything better to do???

  7. Ridiculous says:

    This is just crazy! These ponds were created to help fight fires and they have done just that! Who cares if he used it for swimming, boating or fishing, wouldn’t you? Gary and his family (wife and kids) have opened up their home to so many families time and time again for Bible study, Christmas dinner or to just come hang out and enjoy a hot day by the water and play some volleyball. This man is selfless. He is a good man. He did nothing wrong. He should be thanked, not punished. He did a good thing. Too bad a helicopter couldn’t drop some buckets of water on the morons who are creating this fire!

  8. reader says:

    Wait a minute. He went to jail not for collecting water, but for building dams and reservoirs, and then refusing to demolish it. That is against the law in every single state in US! It is especially important in states with hills and mountains.

    Now, imagine that his dam burts during heavy storm, washing your house with you in it.
    Just becasue you own the property, does not mean you can do whatever you whish. There are other people on this planet, too, ya know.

    1. Sdeer says:

      You sure don’t know what you’re talking about. He didn’t build a dam that can burst. He dug a hole in the ground and spent $10,000 for engineers in 2003 and collected rain water the right way. No gov’t has the right to own rainwater – in fact, our gov’t should never have the right to own any water that is on private property.

    2. Chris Davis says:

      His dams are NOT going to burst! This is not about that. It’s about America and what we stand for. Lets not be Sheeple!! While this does not effect all of us, it does in a much broader sense, WE own this land. This man has done nothing wrong. If we let Big Brother get away with this….what’s next? I, for one, don’t want to live in a world where “they” tell us what’s best for us. Common sense……

  9. Patriot says:

    This entire circus is completely insane. Water that falls from the sky is not state property. That includes snow, and melted snow. Does this mean that I could be charged with a crime if I have a deep enough mud puddle on my land? According to the states argument, thats exactly what it means. Its none of their business what this man does on his own property, so long as it doesnt jepoardise the safety of others. He is not diverting a waterway or endangering any native species. The sheep that live here that are willing to accept this nonsense are exactly whats wrong with this country. Blind obedience to opressive government will enslave us all

  10. Chris Davis says:

    I can’t believe this is happening….what next, tax us for the air we breath? We the people own this land!!!

  11. Mark Johns says:

    This story illustrates the growing problem of our “growing” gov’t. Big Brother has outgrown his britches. Leave the good man alone and worry about catching real criminals. The more we feed the monster, the bigger it will grow and more that it will try to take. Why would anyone want to be a part of the political party that feeds the monster?

  12. Kathy says:

    Any new updates on this case? Did he have to serve the entire 30 days? Has he gone to court yet?

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