It isn’t often that Mainers come in conflict with the U.S. Navy, which has had strong ties to the state since the Revolutionary War.

But one of those rare occasions is shaping up on the banks of the Kennebec River between Bath Iron Works and residents of neighboring Phippsburg and other communities.

What’s at stake is the desire of the Navy to have an unobstructed channel for the USS Spruance, a destroyer nearing completion at BIW.

In order to ensure its safe departure this September, the Navy wants the Army Corps of Engineers to dredge two segments of the ship channel by the end of August, disposing of 70,000 cubic yards of silt in two locations, one in the river and one on Jackknife Ledge off Seguin Island.

That has local fishermen and environmentalists in an uproar, saying that previous dredging efforts have taken place in the winter, when local sea life is less likely to be disrupted. An August dredging, which the Navy says it required because of delays to the ship’s construction schedule, would be harmful to local fisheries and the environment in general, these sources claim.

But the Navy says it needs the Spruance to join the Pacific fleet at its home port of San Diego as soon as possible, and that means not waiting for winter to clear a path for it.

On the merits, the Navy has the stronger case, although it isn’t clear that permits for the work are guaranteed to be granted in the time available. If they can be, however, they should include provisions to restrict the silt removal and disposal operations to the minimum necessary to offer the vessel the clearances it needs.

Even when it comes to the priorities of national defense, if a compromise can be found, it should be.