Couple Forced to Destroy 40yo Pond on Their Own Property Because Govt Owns The Rainwater

pongBy Claire Bernish

Butte Falls, OR — An Oregon couple has been told they must destroy a 2-acre pond on their land — the property’s most attractive feature — because the government said so.

Although Jon and Sabrina Carey purchased the 10-acre property near Butte Falls two and a half years ago, the pond has been in place for 40 years — but that fact doesn’t matter to the Jackson County Watermaster’s Office.

“I basically bought a lemon,” said Jon, who became teary-eyed at the edge of the partially ice-covered body of water being targeted by government, in an interview with the Mail Tribune. “That’s how they explained it to me.”

But the couple desperately wants to keep the stunning longstanding feature in tact, so, as the Mail Tribune reports, the Careys have “pleaded with the Medford Water Commission to adopt the pond and treat it as a municipal water source, something Jackson County Watermaster Larry Menteer has opposed because of the precedent it would set.

“The Water Commission has rights to the watershed around the Careys’ property, where dozens, if not hundreds, of ponds are located, as well as Medford’s primary source of water, Big Butte Springs.”

And the Careys aren’t the only people in the watershed who’ve had difficulties with, well, ‘the government’s’ water.

Eagle Point resident Gary Harrington spent 90 days in jail for illegally harboring some 13 million gallons of illicit rainwater — that’s enough rain to fill around 20 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

Harrington masterfully crafted several ponds on his property — even building docks for one, and stocking it with largemouth bass — but his insistence the water would assist in fire control and prevention didn’t satisfy the government, since a “1925 state law dictates that the water belongs to the Medford Water Commission.”

As Mother Nature Network’s Matt Hickman reported in 2012,

The bigger story here is that rainwater collection is indeed kosher in Oregon, provided that you’re capturing it from an artificial, impervious surface such as a rooftop with the assistance of rainwater barrels. But an extensive reservoir set-up complete with 10- and 20-foot-tall dams is verboten without the proper, state-issued water-right permits — after all, Oregon law dictates that water is a publicly owned resource — and Harrington did not possess said permits.

Harrington and the Oregon Water Resources Department waged an extended battle over the ponds, and at one point, it was ruled he would be allowed to keep everything in place — but that decision was backtracked in less than one year.

Ultimately, “Rain Man,” as he came to be called, found himself charged with nine misdemeanors, spent three months behind bars, and had to shell out $1,500 in fines — and was ordered to destroy the dams and drain all the ponds.

Harrington’s case might have been infinitely more complex than the Careys’ — considering the large volume of water and infrastructure he’d put in place — but they share the same theme of overbearing government and arguably wholly unnecessary law versus the right of people to do as they please with their property.

“When you’re honest, they take everything away from you,” said Sabrina Carey, who inspected country records — which plainly showed the pond — before they purchased the property.

Going by the book might have been the ‘fatal’ error for the couple, however, since the county didn’t take issue with the pond until Jon sought to grow legal medical cannabis on the land and had to prove there was a viable source of water for the grow operation.

According to the Watermaster’s Office, the previous owners had not received a permit for the pond, so the Careys were now in violation of Oregon regulations — and they would have to shoulder the cost of draining the water.

In an effort to prove the pond is legitimate and persuade county government to allow it to remain on the property, the couple stopped using it — even though the well on their land had run dry — and began shipping in the water for daily living and gardening from nearly Butte Falls.

They’ve also had no choice but to hire attorney Sarah Liljefelt, who filed a request with Jackson County to provide a permit for them to store water, stating, “The reservoir on Ms. Carey’s property, though small, is one of the largest in the area.”

As the Mail Tribune notes, “Liljefelt said the pond is an important source of water for beavers, otters, elk, deer, bear, mountain lion, bobcat, bald eagle osprey, great blue heron, snowy egret, Canada geese and the western pond turtle.”

By all appearances, the large pool of water does more good for the environment than if it weren’t there at all — during their fight with the State, the Careys even suggested it be used for fire control and prevention, like Harrington did, as the pond is easily accessible by fire crews.

But the county has displayed only nonsensical obstinance on the issue.

“This pond seems to be doing way more public good than not being here. Why, now, is it so important to be removed?” Jon lamented.

Indeed, the 40-year-old man doesn’t even profit from the medical cannabis grown on the land he and his wife own, as he literally gives the crop — free of charge — to friends.

“I don’t make anything out of this,” he said.

Members of the Water Commission disagree on whether this is an issue worth fighting over at all, but as the Mail Tribune reports,

Water Commission staff found several problems with the Careys’ request, including setting a precedent that could prompt similar requests and weaken state statutes while not meeting the definition of ‘municipal water source.’ The staff found it would be very difficult to access the water stored in the pond for municipal reasons, and further monitoring and following up on compliance issues would be difficult and costly for the commission.

However, the commission also failed to state why this should be a matter for the government in the first place — why punitive bureaucracy needs to meddle with a pond on private property, serving as a valuable ecosystem, that poses no threat to anyone or anything, and isn’t even an eyesore, must be destroyed.

Besides a trailer home and dilapidated house, the pond is the only thing of value on their acreage, and, obviously, as Sabrina said, “We didn’t buy it for the double-wide.”

She told the Mail Tribune the pond should have been registered with the Oregon Water Resources Department nine years ago, but the owners at that time did not reside on the property and didn’t do so.

They have even offered to reduce the pond’s size, allow officials to inspect it when necessary, and have provided a draft easement to the commission in hopes of allowing the prized water feature to remain intact — thus far to no avail.

“We’re just trying to do it by the rules,” Sabrina explained. “I’m trying to cooperate.”

In 2012, Gary Harrington had already been through years of conflict with government officials over illicit water — and provided CNSNews with stronger sentiment on the topic:

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.’

That government feels entitled to not only something located on private property, but that people should not be allowed to collect rain, is everything wrong with excessive government — and the overregulation of daily life.

Claire Bernish writes for, where this article first appeared.

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54 Comments on "Couple Forced to Destroy 40yo Pond on Their Own Property Because Govt Owns The Rainwater"

  1. We have the 1st and 2nd Amendments for a reason. Learn to use them or lose everything you have.

  2. So, the government doesn’t have an issue with fracking companies contaminating essential water resources, because you can’t see them, but water that falls from the sky is now their property.

    It’s a great job if you can get it.

  3. They tried to pass a law here in Washington state claiming all rain water belongs to the state (in this case a city). We are pretty smart here. A campaign to form a line to sue the state for erosion damage did the trick. No law was passed.

    • Spot-on. The bureaucrats assert that their regulations/policies apply to you until you stress otherwise. Love the reference to codes. Their regulations are all written in code, not English as we know it… and you are not supposed to comprehend, but follow their interpretation of the their codes. Read some definitions of simple words in a legal dictionary, i.e., Black’s Law Dictionary, and one quickly comprehends that they have created a new language.

      On a different note, what gives a government any authority to tell you what you can or cannot do with property that you purchased? They are claiming an interest. In other words… you don’t own it outright. Do you pay property taxes? Enough said.

      • whenever a judge has asked me if I want an attorney I always say no thank you but I do need an interpreter since you just told me the law can be difficult to understand. 🙂

      • If the government can tell you what to do on your own property, THEY should be paying the property tax.

        • If you think you own property, just try not paying your property taxes. You’ll find out real quick who really owns it.

          • Respectfully, it’s not “your property taxes,” unless of course you are a slave. By paying the “bill” you are consenting to their “offer.” In effect this validates their claim… that you are a share-cropper… a Tenant. Look at your “deed.” Is it Joint-Tenant, Tenant in Common, etc.? Why don’t you create a Bill of Sale, take it to the County Clerk (cleric), and tell him/her that the property is now Private and that it should be removed from the tax rolls since you do not consent to their “fees.” Or just send the property tax “bill” to the Governor, since the County claims that there is an agreement. If you don’t make some form of peaceful non-conformance it will never change, and you will be living in fear until your last day.

      • “Do you pay property taxes?” That’s the reason why NO ONE really owns property! Since you have to pay property taxes you will NEVER own it not when someone can take it away from you! Taxes allow your property (that you think you own) to be taken if not paid. You are merely leasing a very expensive investment.

    • Mark Are Reynolds Ⓥ | January 3, 2017 at 9:19 am |

      I personally think that the bureauRAT needs to be waylaid and beaten and told to back off or the next time he gets put in a box. FOR WHEN THE GOVERNMENT FEARS THE PEOPLE THERE IS FREEDOM. When the PEOPLE fear the government there is TYRANNY. What is it about Oregon? And a few other states? Kick some BUTT people. Screw the sick psycho system.

  4. Since 1925 ! Why don’t they change the law !?!?!?!?!?!!!!!!!

  5. So it seems as if the true issue here is the fact that Jackson county ‘commissioners’ are going against the will of the people and looking for any little nit-picking way to harass people who want to grow legal weed. That really seems to be the motivator here. Claiming that they ‘own’ the water is as absurd as it gets.

    Every single one of these old commissioners are dinosaurs who are sadly out of touch with what the people of Jackson county truly want. They all need to be retired and new, fresher minds allowed to set sane precedents, which will benefit everyone, not just petty government minions.

  6. Thanks to Amendment 5, the pond “belongs” to the government as well. In fact, thanks to eminent domain, property taxes, and public lands, all of America is “owned” by the government.

    For more, see online Chapter 14 “Amendment 5: Constitutional vs. Biblical Judicial Protection” of “Bible Law vs. the United States Constitution: The Christian Perspective.” Click on my name, then our website. Go to our Online Books page, click on the top entry, and scroll down to Chapter 14.

    Then find out how much you REALLY know about the Constitution as compared to the Bible. Take our 10-question Constitution Survey in the right-hand sidebar and receive a complimentary copy of a book that EXAMINES the Constitution by the Bible.

  7. I’m not sure what the intention of articles such as this one is, but I’m betting in many cases they act as a strong deterrent to anyone contemplating going back to the land. These are isolated incidents; don’t let them keep you from pursuing living off the land if that is your desire. Creating widespread habitat changes will get the eyes of the authority freaks focused your way, or choose a state that places a high value private property rights, but in all cases proceed with foreknowledge and awareness and you’ll be fine.

  8. Look up Karl Lentz on youtube… or at …. this man will show you all how simply this man can protect himself from a FICTION… there is no man or woman who will appear in open court claiming right to this man’s property… the case is over that quick… learn common law…not this legal corruption crown courts that are all FRAUD…. these are private courts fooling every man and woman… want to really learn it watch this incredible video presentation THIS IS HUGE… it show us all how to stop ALL these corrupt actions by ignorant public servants [Government/lawyers] Much love and Respect please spread this far and wide THIS AFFECTS US ALL…THIS WAS DONE TO ALL OF US AT BIRTH!

  9. HEY!…That’s our air you’re breathing!….same diff!

  10. Essentially they went after this guy because he was growing pot and giving it away….anything to deter the medical pot in favor of big pharma. Maybe if he stopped growing pot they’d leave him alone?

  11. If you are living under the illusion that you own stuff, (land, home, auto, office equipment, etc.) try not paying the taxes on it.

    • Mark Are Reynolds Ⓥ | January 3, 2017 at 9:22 am |

      Taxation is THEFT. Extortion. No different then the Mafia telling you to pay up or get your business burned down. “When theft has become a way of
      life for a group of men living
      together in society, they create
      for themselves in the course of
      time a legal system that authorizes
      it and a moral code that glorifies it.”
      ~ Frederic Bastiat in “The Law”

  12. Isn’t it curious to anyone how quickly these local gubmint entities bend over and grab their ankles the minute an ACLU or anti-religion group complains about any Christian expression in public, but are ferocious against people using their property to their benefit? This BS has got to stop!!!!!!

  13. I’d say it’s time for a “cleaner” to do a little “wet work”.

  14. Oregon has always been a progressive jurisdiction. What happened?

  15. The new EPA under Trump will squash all this BS!

  16. What does the water Commission going to do with every pond that holds some water?
    Seems more like its another form of taxation they can apply if anyone wants to use their water.
    I think I would get some cattle and let them defecate in it and fill it up that way.

  17. For Christ’s sake, the commission members should have registered the man’s pond and stopped trying to create Job security for themselves. Isn’t this just typical of bureaucrats? I wonder how many of them voted for Clinton.

  18. America the free? ROTFLMAO!

  19. This is what one gets when voting for someone to have control over their lives. Ditch all levels of the state. Tyrants will be tyrants until it no longer benefits them.

  20. This is the government shaping up to sell all lakes, rivers and watercourses to the private sector so as to raise funds to pay off (in part) the $20 Trillion national debt. It is the same as the Saudis selling their oil resources to private investors to plug their yawning budget deficit. They intend to financialise whatever they can.

    • Like happens in Chile? They commonly sell water resources to the highest bidders. And you know something? Their water resources are in much better shape because of private ownership. I’ll tell you what….that would be a preferable solution compared to letting the Govt continue to run (or is it RUIN?) things. Before you come back on me on this perhaps you want to study how in a Libertarian society monetizing natural resources would be better for the environment and better for those resources because of the financial incentive that goes along with ownership in general and in particular in Chile where it’s worked now for many years. And if you’ve never heard of this before, knowing OUR govt, all I can say about that is that I’m not surprised that you haven’t…

  21. Obviously the govt objects to the medical canibas and is being vindictive.

  22. Why bother with the County any longer?? Just hire a lawyer and sue them. Or plead your case with one of the many environmental organizations that would hopefully furnish him with either money or a lawyer. This happened to my brother in Pierce County Washington who also had a pond (He’d rather have 3/4’s of an acre of water with a depth of 8 feet instead of 1 foot of water ruining over 5 acres of HIS land – what a thought concept, huh?) on his property that the County one day must have woke up and decided that they didn’t like that any longer. They made him hire an Engineer who had to come out and “see” everything who then wrote up a report which was then submitted back to the County. After waiting for what seemed like forever they sent him back a checklist of things that had to be done that was even longer than the original complaint. In fact when going to the County Annex to inquire about all this County flim-flam they called security had had him escorted out of the building telling him to never come back. So his wife had to go down there and take care of business. To make a long story short, the only way this thing flew was by letting them through the Fire Protection District come in and let the fire engines take water IF they had a fire in the neighborhood AFTER doing everything the County desired through that checklist. He gladly accepted their deal but you know what?? That was over 15 years ago now and they have NEVER stopped by to use any of that water for a fire or anything else. So besides liking to argue AND TO PREVAIL to where they extracted cash out of my brother, what was their point besides what I pointed out here??

  23. Rain is free, it come’s from the sky and it’s clouds, no one own’s the sky and clouds. Where do they get off. I say fight tooth and nail, do not cave.

  24. This is an example of government we are better off without. The Second Amendment was intended to ensure that the People have the ability to shoot government minions – to overthrow government and abolish it. Seems Oregon is working on making that happen.

  25. time to defend shoot the mfers!

  26. First mistake was moving to anywhere in that socialist hellpit called Oregon, or pacific northwest for that matter.

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