Wearing a blue shirt and standing outside, Watershed planning expert Kate Sharpe stands smiling.

Kate Sharpe, AICP, ENV SP

Kate Sharpe, AICP, ENV SP


Kate Sharpe, AICP, ENV SP


“Gannett Fleming has always encouraged me to grow into leadership roles while affording me the flexibility I needed for my dual-career family.”

Gannett Fleming Principal Economist Kate Sharpe knows the ins and outs of watershed planning. She specializes in consequence analysis for water resources projects, providing clients with assessment models to help them understand the risks and develop resilient mitigation solutions benefitting their communities.

We asked Kate a few questions. Get to know her here:

When did you realize you wanted to work in your field of practice?

I enjoyed writing and math in school—especially economics—and I have always been interested in an environmental career. While in college, I worked at the Penn State Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center. The experience had a definite influence on my career.

How long have you worked in your field? Tell us about your experience in your industry.

My entire 22-year career has been with Gannett Fleming. I started as an environmental planner and am now a principal economist and project manager. I work primarily on water resources projects but have also worked on transportation and land use projects during my career.

How does Gannett Fleming support your professional development and career growth?

Although I joined the firm after graduating from Penn State with a Bachelor of Arts in English and a minor in environmental economics and business, Gannett Fleming later supported me in taking a leave of absence and earning a master’s of professional studies in applied economics and environmental management from Cornell University.

I have had four children and lived in seven separate cities during my career at Gannett Fleming. The firm has always encouraged me to grow into leadership roles while affording me the flexibility I needed for our dual-career family.

Tell us about your role and responsibilities at Gannett Fleming.

I have two primary roles. I am the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) group manager for the Environmental Business Line, and I perform consequence analysis. NEPA applies when federal funding is used for a project. The federal agency or local sponsor of the project is responsible for considering the impacts of their actions on communities, human health, and the natural environment.

We provide our clients with support for NEPA regulatory compliance and all the NEPA-related statutes, such as the Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act, and Executive Order on Environmental Justice.

I specialize in consequence analysis for water resources projects. For example, when an agency designs a flooding or ecosystem restoration solution, they come to me to evaluate the benefits and costs of the proposed project to downstream communities.

What are the benefits of the work you perform?

In communities where problems caused by flooding occur and a threat to public safety is present, our assessment modeling provides clients with the information needed to help them understand risk and develop resilient mitigation solutions.

How has the industry changed over time?

The integral role that environmental management plays in infrastructure planning has become even more vital as we focus on the long-term sustainability and resiliency of projects. Also, during my career, federal agencies have required more robust benefit-cost analysis to demonstrate the gains provided by infrastructure investment and to make educated decisions about where and how to spend infrastructure funds.

Tell us about your favorite project.

I worked with the U.S. Department of State to prepare a master plan and Environmental Impact Statement to repurpose the former Walter Reed Army Medical Center into a foreign missions center. The project was complex because the campus was part of a historic district listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Being part of a large urban redevelopment project in our nation’s capital was very rewarding.

On what topic could you give a 30-minute presentation with no preparation?

Watershed planning, which considers the problems within a watershed and identifies solutions to improve flood control, manage water supply, enhance irrigation, restore ecosystems, maintain water quality, and provide recreation.

What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?

The people with whom I work. The best part of working at Gannett Fleming is the deep relationships I’ve formed over the years.

How does your work contribute to Gannett Fleming’s vision of creating a better future, together?

Part of creating a better future is recognizing the importance of ecosystem services. An emerging trend in benefit-cost analysis is looking at projects from an ecosystem services framework.

We consider what services are being provided by a resource or ecosystem, such as flood control, recreation, water quality, or wildlife habitat. Some federal agencies are even monetizing these services and explicitly including them in benefit-cost analysis.

What’s one professional achievement of which you’re especially proud?

When I joined Gannett Fleming in 2000, benefit-cost analysis for watershed planning was not a significant service provided at the time. Collaborating with a colleague, we’ve grown benefit-cost analysis work for watershed planning at the firm to extend across 13 states and counting. We enjoy working in a diverse set of ecosystems and considering the needs of each system.

To which behavior or personality trait do you most attribute your professional success?

My willingness and ability to collaborate across the enterprise have come in handy. I love talking with all the different specialists at Gannett Fleming, and multi-disciplinary projects are a significant part of the environmental field.

What’s the best piece of professional advice you’ve ever received?

Be present in the moment that you’re in. When you’re at work, give it your full focus. Likewise, when you’re with your family, turn off your email and give them your undivided attention.

Let’s talk family!

My husband, a scientist with the U.S. National Park Service, and I have four children, ages 14, 11, 8, and 6, and a black lab puppy named Smokey. We love the energy that surrounds our lives.

What’s your favorite family tradition?

Every August, our family enjoys traveling to the Outer Banks of North Carolina and relaxing on the beach.

What are your favorite hobbies?

Spending time outdoors in the Pennsylvania mountains with my family. Together, we enjoy hiking, camping, and kayaking.

If you could pick up a new skill in an instant, what would it be?

I speak two languages—English and Spanish—and would like to continue to learn more. It’s a great way to explore other cultures!

What’s your favorite way to unwind after a busy day?

I like to go for a walk or sit around the fire pit in the backyard with my family and listen to music.

If you could have dinner with anyone, who would it be and why?

I would like to have dinner with my grandfather, who passed away before I was born. From hearing stories, I know that he was in World War II. Imagine how different the world was during that time and the history he could share. That would be a meaningful dinner.

If you could live in any city, where would it be and why?

I have lived in many places—Washington, D.C.; Philadelphia; upstate New York; and Spain. I’m very happy in State College. It’s a terrific place to raise a family and watch Division 1 sports.


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