On the beach, nature often acts faster than man. A case in point is Dauphin Island, Alabama, where the ocean is steadily encroaching on beachfront property, and where property owners and state officials are engaged in a continual game of catch-up. This year, some property owners on the Gulf side of the narrow barrier island are trying to slow down the sea’s advance, building individual seawalls to protect the elevated pier foundations of their homes from oncoming waves. Scientists and neighbors worry that the small stand-alone seawalls will only accelerate beach erosion in nearby sections of beach. But the state