(Correction note (7/30/12): The original version of this article did not include information about the dams nor about a 2007 guilty plea agreed to by Harrington. This has been updated. We apologize for making the mistake and regret the error.)

Gary Harrington of Eagle Point, Oregon has been sentenced to 30 days in jail but not for something you would think would warrant it: he collected rainwater on his own property.

Stemming from a dispute that started in 2002 over three pond reservoirs that Harrington had on his own 170 acre property, his conviction was decided under a 1925 law handing all against private reservoirs and that according to Oregon water laws, all water is publicly owned. As such, you can only collect and store rain or snow runoff with special permits. While he was initially issued the correct permits by the Water Resources Department in 2003, the state took them away – and he has been fighting them ever since.

“The government is bullying,” Harrington told CNSNews.com. “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.”

Reportedly the 1925 law says nothing about collecting and storing rain or snow runoff, which Harrington plans to note in appealing his conviction. However, Tom Paul from the Oregon Water Resources Department stated that it’s not that law he is in violation of, but rather Oregon’s public water laws which state that if one wishes to divert or store water, permits are needed. The department insists that Harrington built two 10-foot dams and one 20-foot dam which block a tributary to the Big Butte River, which he denies. He says his dams collect rainwater and snow runoff on his own property.

However,in 2007 Harrington entered a guilty plea for illegally withdrawing water from the tributaries, receiving three years probation for his act and ordered to open his dam gates again. He did so, only to close them back up a short time later to refill his reservoirs. Because of his refusal to meet the conditions of his probation, the water department filed this recent lawsuit.

The court has given him two weeks to report to jail to begin his 30 day stay, which he says he will comply with if his appeal is unsuccessful. But he also says he won’t stop fighting the law, stating that “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.”

The city of Portland allows rainwater catchment in barrels and cisterns but not private dams and reservoirs. At issue here is the damming of rivers and tributaries, which Harrington says he has the right to do on his property but the water department disagrees with.

[via CNS News]

Image Credit: Bull Run Reservoir in Oregon | Sam Beebe, Ecotrust/Flickr