Kaua‘i Springs operating for now

The Garden Island

Kaua‘i Springs bottled water is waiting to hear whether it will have to shut down operations while it appeals an earlier Kaua‘i County Planning Commission decision not to permit the business.

Sherri Rego, judicial assistant to 5th Circuit Judge Kathleen Watanabe, confirmed that Watanabe is considering a preliminary injunction to allow the company to keep its doors open as the appeal is processed.

On Monday, Watanabe extended a temporary restraining order by an extra 10 days. The order will keep things static between the county and Kaua‘i Springs until she makes a decision.

“We’re in a holding pattern,” said Robert Thomas, an attorney with Damon Key Leong Kupchak Hastert representing Kaua‘i Springs.

In March, Kaua‘i Springs appealed the Planning Commission’s decision to deny its request for a use permit, special permit and Class IV Zoning permit.

The company had requested the additional permits after a competitor complained that it was conducting industrial activity on agricultural lands, according to Thomas.

When owner Jim Satterfield set up shop in 2004, he did so with county, state and federal approval.

Thomas said that while his client did not agree that more permits were necessary when the issue came up earlier this year, he decided to pursue them because there had not been problems in the past.

However, the resulting commission hearings strayed from land use issues to water rights issues, with the state Office of Hawaiian Affairs and a kanaka maoli representing the indigenous people of Hawai‘i arguing in February that the project took surface water that is part of a public trust.

According to Thomas, the commission does not have the right to decide on water matters.

“At the end of the day, they can’t make that decision,” he said.

Deputy County Attorney James Tagupa, who is representing the county, declined to comment on the case or the county’s position.

Kaua‘i Springs is the only bottled water company on-island that sources its water locally.

Satterfield has a long-term agreement with the Knudsen Trust to get the water from a spring at the base of Mount Kahili.

He confirmed that Kaua‘i Springs uses about 1,000 gallons a day from the pipe that transports the water, which has a capacity of 360,000 gallons.

The case is an administrative appeal of the commission’s decision, not a lawsuit. For this reason, it will likely take months — not years — to resolve, Thomas said.

But months can make or break a small business, and Thomas said that is why his client is seeking the injunction.

“The Satterfields have put their entire life savings into this and they’ve been doing it for three years without a complaint,” he said.

There is no hearing scheduled as of yet.

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