"We don't have records of that berm, of when it was built and how it was built originally," he told committee chairman Paul Sarlo. "It's not something the state keeps, it's not something we regulate. We regulate dams."
The berm actually was built in 2010 as part of a project that has turned a former dumping ground west of the New Jersey Turnpike and north of MetLife Stadium into a tidal wetland with vegetation and wildlife.
According to Andrew Derickson, vice president of Kane Mitigation LLC, the company that finished building the berm and is responsible for maintaining it, the berm was built primarily to control the movement of tidewaters in and out of the wetlands area and not for flood protection.
Still, a brochure published by Kane in November 2010 describes one of its tidal restoration strategies for the site as to "build flood control berm protecting neighboring development."
The land on which the berm sits is leased to Kane by the Meadowlands Conservation Trust, a public/private partnership formed to acquire and preserve environmentally sensitive land in the area.
Compounding the confusion for flooded homeowners, dozens of berms of various lengths and heights dot the Hackensack, according to Tom Marturano, director of natural resources and solid waste for the Meadowlands Commission, the zoning and planning agency for the 30-square-mile area along the river. The Meadowlands Commission and Conservation Trust share some staff and facilities but are separate entities.
Some of the berms are simple earthen barriers made by hand that date back more than 100 years and were built for mosquito control or agricultural purposes, Marturano said. No comprehensive record exists of who built them or when.
What is known is that they are insufficient to stop a tidal surge of the magnitude produced by Sandy, which sent tidal waters several feet over normal high tide levels for many hours.