As we proceeded along the trail we noticed the first signs of an irrigation ditch owned by Wailuku Agribusiness. Much like a similar irrigation ditch in East Maui along the Hana Highway, this ditch was built over a century ago to bring water from the Waihe'e River and adjoining mountains to supply the sugar fields of Central Maui.
The use of this water has been the subject of recent legal action by the Earthjustice legal organization, which has filed a complaint with the state Commission on Water Resource Management. The complaint alleges that much of the water being diverted into this irrigation system is being wasted since Wailuku Agribusiness has ceased production of sugar and macadamia nuts and is in the process of selling all of its lands either to Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Company (HC&S) for agricultural purposes or to residential housing developers.
Earthjustice alleges that unused water is allowed to evaporate away or is being released inappropriately. HC&S and Wailuku Agribusiness deny these allegations.
In a similar case on Oahu, the Hawaii Supreme Court has ordered that water no longer needed for agriculture must be returned to the stream from which it was being drawn to restore stream flow.
A walk along the trail is a constant reminder of Hawaii's delicate ecological balance and the never-ending battle between the interests of big business and the interests of the 'aina (the land) and the local Hawaiian people.