Gary Harrington, an Oregon man, will be spending a month in jail, after being convicted on nine misdemeanor charges. His crime? "Illegally" collecting rain water on his own property.
Harrington, who lives in Eagle Point, Oregon, has been fighting for the right to collect rain water since 2002.
Now a decade later, he has been sentenced to 30 days in jail and fined over $1,500 for the man-made ponds he has built on his 170 acres of land. For filling “three illegal reservoirs” on his property with runoff water, Harrington has been convicted on nine misdemeanor charges in Circuit Court.
According to authorities, Harrington broke the law by collecting natural rain water and snow runoff, that landed on his property. Harrington said he stores the water mainly for fire protection.
According to officials with the Medford Water Commission, the water on Harrington's property, whether it came from the sky or not, is considered a tributary of the nearby Crowfoot Creek. Thus it is subject to a 1925 law, giving Medford Water Commission full ownership and rights to the water.
Due to this, prosecutors were able to argue in court that the three man-made boating and fishing ponds on Harrington's property have violated the law.
Harrington says he will attempt to appeal, but as long as the conviction stands, he will have to serve 30 days of imprisonment. He has further been sentenced to an additional three years of probation.
Harrington told the Mail Tribune, "Thirty days in jail for catching rainwater? We live in an extreme wildfire area and here the government is going to open the valves and really waste all the water right now, at the start of peak fire season.”
“Way back in 1925 the city of Medford got a unique withdrawal that withdrew all - supposedly all - the water out of a single basin and supposedly for the benefit of the city of Medford,” Harrington said
Harrington stated, however, that the 1925 law does not mention anything about collecting snow melt or rainwater, and he believes that he has been falsely accused.
“The withdrawal said the stream and its tributaries. It didn’t mention anything about rainwater and it didn’t mention anything about snow melt and it didn’t mention anything about diffused water, but yet now, they’re trying to expand that to include that rain water and they’re using me as the goat to do it,” he added.
On CNS News, Harrington said that others should be fearful of how they could be attacked next.
He told Associated Press, "When it comes to the point where a rural landowner can't catch rainwater that falls on his land to protect his property, it's gone too far. This should serve as a dire warning to all pond owners."
He states that he was issued permits in 2003 by the state, allowing him to do what he wished with the water on his own property. And although the state Water Resources Department saw no fault at first, they shortly after revoked that license and left Harrington to fight for another nine years.
“The government is bullying. 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,” he told CNS.
“This is a good country, we’ll prevail,” he states.