Two leading scientists with the Massachusetts Estuaries Project met with the Chilmark selectmen this week to seek approval in moving forward with their study of Chilmark Pond. A draft report released last month confirms that the pond is at its limit for handling nitrogen runoff.

Brian Howes and Roland Samimy, senior scientists with of the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth who have been at the forefront of the state estuaries study for a decade, offered a brief presentation at the selectmen’s meeting Tuesday and led a casual discussion of the possible scenarios for mitigating runoff into the pond.

The report recommends that the nitrogen level in the estuary system be reduced from about .74 to .5 milligrams per liter. More frequent openings to the sea could help lower the nitrogen levels, but additional strategies would be needed to meet the MEP target.

There was some confusion over what the scientists were seeking from the selectmen, since the MEP process has changed. Usually the draft reports are submitted to the Department of Environmental Protection for review and then sent to town officials. Workshops in the towns then address any local concerns, and a final draft is made public.

About 55 reports have been issued so far in southeastern Massachusetts, including those for several ponds on the Vineyard. The Chilmark Pond study is the first one requiring the town to approve the draft report before moving on to the workshop. Mr. Samimy said the change was still unofficial.

“It’s never really been discussed,” he said by phone on Wednesday. “As far as we’re concerned, we’ll still stick to what we’ve always been doing in the MEP since the inception of the project in 2002, relative to the submittal of the draft and final report.”

Brian Dudley, DEP project manager, said by phone on Thursday that the change was meant to speed up the process and allow towns to get the reports from MEP sooner. “Because for various reasons they are having some delays in getting the reports out, and [because] the towns have been anxious to get them, we have released them concurrently,” Mr. Dudley said. “So it gives the town an opportunity to have comments incorporated and our initial comments later.”

To move the process forward, the selectmen approved the draft with the understanding that additional scenarios for reducing nitrogen in the pond may emerge during the workshops and be added to the report. The first workshop will likely take place in mid January.

Selectman Warren Doty pointed out that the town had already given its backing to the estuaries project by town meeting vote more than 10 years ago. “The town has overwhelmingly supported doing this project,” Mr. Doty said. “We want the report, we want the workshop and we want to move ahead.”

The draft report is not yet intended for public inspection, but Mr. Howes was unable to avoid discussing it at the meeting on Tuesday. He said more frequent openings of the inlet would still leave the pond short of the target, and that the town would need to work with the MEP to find a way to make up the difference.

Some of the scenarios that were discussed included adding oysters or mussels to the pond, since shellfish sequester nitrogen, and using the pond to harvest seaweed or grasses that also absorb nitrogen. But both ideas presented challenges in terms of permitting. Mr. Howes acknowledged that without much housing density, sewering was likely not an option in Chilmark.

He said an important part of the process would be getting enough people, including local farmers, to participate in the workshop. “You need various interests and knowledge bases,” he said. “We need the people that want to do it and the people who don’t want to do it.”

Stephen Lewenberg said he hoped the Chilmark Pond Association, on which he serves, would play a role, since it manages the inlet. He said the association was not allowed to open the inlet in the early spring because it would disturb piping plovers and other protected species. “It’s more than simply saying we will open it three times a year,” he said. The two scientists agreed.

With a workshop on the horizon, Mr. Samimy did not foresee any other procedural changes. “When someone comes to us and tells us officially that we need to change, then we can discuss that,” he said. “But in the meantime we are going to stick with the way that we’ve always done it.”