At the EPA, we've described the Chesapeake Bay "pollution diet" established on Dec. 29, 2010, as historic and monumental. And with good reason.

By far the most comprehensive and rigorous road map to restoration ever developed, this pollution diet differs markedly from past Bay cleanup efforts. From its legal underpinnings to the tough accountability system, it ensures results and gives us our best chance to restore the Chesapeake Bay and the region's streams and rivers.

The pollution diet-or Total Maximum Daily Load-calls for pollution reductions of 25 percent in nitrogen, 24 percent in phosphorus and 20 percent in sediment. It is designed to ensure that all pollution control measures to fully restore the Bay and its tidal rivers are in place by 2025, with at least 60 percent of the actions completed by 2017.

Now the hard work begins in shedding those excess tons of nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment that continue to harm the Bay. Our confidence is drawn from the strong and verifiable watershed implementation plans advanced by the Chesapeake Bay Program partner jurisdictions of Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Delaware, West Virginia, New York and the District of Columbia, and the EPA's firm resolve to hold them accountable along the way. With a few exceptions, those plans met EPA's strict expectations, detailing how they would meet the pollution limits.

It has been the EPA's goal from the outset that the pollution diet be driven primarily by these state plans, giving states and the District the flexibility to determine how to reduce pollution in the most cost-efficient, effective and reasonable manner. The jurisdictions are to be congratulated for their leadership in rising to this challenge.

The plans reflect extensive public input and contain many new ideas and commitments. The EPA worked closely with the states and the District last fall to help them improve on the draft plans submitted in September.

The accountability framework for meeting the pollution diet includes regular two-year milestones, close monitoring through a tracking and accounting system, and the set of actions the EPA is prepared to take if necessary.

The federal government will also do its share in the cleanup. The EPA has committed to reducing air deposition of nitrogen to the tidal waters of the Chesapeake Bay from 17.9 million to 15.7 million pounds per year through federal air regulations during the coming years. And federal agencies will establish their own two-year milestones for progress.

Clean water is our shared obligation to the watershed's 17 million residents and countless communities. In addition to the significant environmental and economic benefits of a healthy Bay, the actions taken under the TMDL will help clean rivers and other waterways throughout the watershed, supporting local economies and recreational activities.

We look forward to continuing our work with our Bay Program partners and all stakeholders as we move toward realizing our shared commitment to clean water and a healthy Bay.