The 2-acre pond is a vital source of water for an array of wildlife.
A couple from Oregon have been told that they must destroy a 2-acre pond on their land because the government said they have to. The pond on Jon and Sabrina Carey’s 10-acre property near Butte Falls is the land’s most attractive feature and has been in place for 40 years. In an interview with the Mail Tribune, Jon became teary-eyed as he stood next to the pond and said, “I basically bought a lemon. That’s how they explained it to me.” The couple, who purchased the property two and a half years ago, are desperate to keep this feature intact, and therefore 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”, reports the Mail Tribune.
Others in the area have also had trouble with water ownership in the past. Eagle Point resident Gary Harrington spent 90 days in jail for illegally harboring around 13 million gallons of illicit rainwater, according to reports. This happened after he crafted several ponds on his property and insisted that the water would assist in fire control and prevention. However, the government was not satisfied with his justification since a “1925 state law dictates that the water belongs to the Medford Water Commission.”
Due to the fact that Oregon law dictates that water is a publicly owned resource, and Harrington did not possess said permits, “Rain Man” as he became known, was charged with nine misdemeanors, spent three months behind bars, and had to pay $1,500 in fines, in addition to being ordered to destroy the dams and drain all the ponds.
According to the Watermaster’s Office, the previous owners of the property did not receive a permit for the pond, consequently meaning that the Careys are now in violation of Oregon regulations, meaning that they would also have to pay the cost to drain the water. The Careys then had to hire an attorney, Sarah Liljefelt, who proceeded to file 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.”
The Mail Tribune also noted an additional important aspect that, “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.” Therefore the large pond does a lot more good for the environment compared to if it was not there. In addition to this, the pond is also very easily accessible, meaning that it can be used for fire control and prevention. Despite these points defending the pond, the Mail Tribune reported, “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.”
The Careys have even offered to reduce the size of the pond and allow officials to inspect it, however, this has been to no avail. In 2012, Gary Harrington had been through years of conflict with government officials over illicit water and told CNSNews, “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.”
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