MIAMI - An environmental lawyer who has handled nine Superfund cleanup cases and helped settle an assortment of hazardous waste fights has been named to referee disputes over the Everglades cleanup.
John Barkett, a longtime Miami lawyer with a national reputation in environmental law, was appointed Thursday by U.S. District Judge Federico Moreno to examine the politically touchy dispute over Everglades pollution and report back to him.
"I can't imagine any person better qualified, more independent, more objective, more thorough with a greater combination of integrity and intelligence," former law partner Alvin Davis said Friday.
Moreno is policing a 1992 settlement between the federal and state governments over water feeding the Everglades, a slow-growth marsh fouled by phosphorus and other pollutants from farms, power plants, incinerators and suburbs.
Federal and state attorneys insist they are committed to water cleanup by a 2006 deadline, but environmental groups and Indians living in the Everglades argue the government is ignoring problems.
The order appointing Barkett, nephew of federal appeals court Judge Rosemary Barkett, crossed paths with a request by the South Florida Water Management District, the main cleanup agency. The district asked the judge to either reconsider naming a special master or clarify his role.
If Barkett helps focus the dispute, "then this is a real good thing for us," water district attorney Sheryl Wood said Friday.
Environmental groups were impressed with Barkett's credentials but uncertain about his contribution.
Meanwhile, Barkett was notifying everyone involved to be able to schedule their first meeting before he produces an initial report by Dec. 2. He declined comment Friday on the substance of his work.