Jaime Pinkham, a member of the Nez Perce Tribe and executive director of the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, is likely joining President Joe Biden’s administration, where he will oversee civil works for the Army Corps of Engineers.
Pinkham, who lives in Portland, confirmed he has been offered the job, which he called an honor, but declined to go into further detail about it pending an official release from the White House.
“I’m working on the transition and looking forward to sharing more information at a later time,” he said. “It’s for them to fill in the details. It’s a personnel decision and it’s how the process works.”
His hiring, which would not require Senate confirmation, was first reported by E&E News, an online publication based in Washington, D.C., focusing on energy and the environment. Pinkham said the administration also made a brief announcement during the National Congress of American Indians earlier this week.
He would be joining the administration in advance of what is expected to be a push later this year for a sizable infrastructure package in Congress. That package could include Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson’s $33 billion proposal to save Snake River salmon and steelhead by breaching the four lower Snake River dams that are managed by the corps.
Simpson unveiled the concept, which has not yet been drafted into legislation, earlier this month. It would fund removal of the earthen portions of the dams and make investments in communities and industries affected by the loss of slackwater and hydroelectric generation.
Pinkham noted he will be working for the administration and working to implement its policy direction.
“I’m not ready to point to any particular outcome of any particular issue at this time. I will take my lead from the administration,” he said.
The Nez Perce Tribe has long supported restoring the lower Snake to a free-flowing river as the best option to recover salmon, steelhead and Pacific lamprey, and has expressed support for Simpson’s concept. Shannon Wheeler, chairman of the Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee, said the tribe is proud of Pinkham.
“He is definitely a great choice,” Wheeler said. “I’m sure what he would do is be a team player with the Biden-Harris administration and definitely work with the agenda Presiden Biden is coming forward with. We are hopeful his appointment comes through because he does have a lot of knowledge on the treaty rights of the Columbia River tribes and the Nez Perce in particular, and we are proud a Nez Perce would even be considered for this.”
Prior to his latest stint with the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, Pinkham worked for the Bush Foundation’s Native Nations Program, the Trust for Public Land’s Tribal Initiative, held elective office on the Nez Perce Tribe’s Executive Committee and ran the tribe’s Department of Fisheries Resources Management.
Pinkham, who maintains a home on Mission Creek and returns to the area to hunt elk and fish for salmon, has a degree in forestry from Oregon State University.